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Manhattan Beach Votes to Require Vaccination for City Employees

Sep 22, 2021 10:02AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Battalion Chief Tyler Wade of the Manhattan Beach Fire Department delivers one of the first vaccines to a local educator through the Beach Cities Health District's vaccination center at Adventureplex in Manhattan Beach.

The Manhattan Beach City Council on Tuesday night voted to require city employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 - or show a religious or medical exemption - by December 1.

The vote of 4-1, with Councilmember Suzanne Hadley as the lone "no" vote, came after a round of discussion and public comments on the issue.

"We’re all saying we prioritize safety," said Manhattan Beach Mayor Hildy Stern. "If we want to create a safe environment for employees and residents, the simple act of getting vaccinated will assure that. Hopefully we can avoid the continued surges we are seeing."

Hadley had argued that the mandate was unnecessary and could potentially hurt employee morale or discourage qualified employees from seeking to work in Manhattan Beach. 

Manhattan Beach Police Chief Derrick Abell, whose department is seeking several new officers, said that recruitment has been going well. Nevertheless, he said, a mandatory vaccine requirement may have an impact. "Morale has been delicate," he said, and word travels among departments about what other departments are requiring.

Yet Councilmember Richard Montgomery, one of two councilmembers who called for the vaccination agenda item, pointed out that the police department is almost always recruiting more officers, implying that this current round of recruitment is not necessarily tied to or hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.

"No one’s forcing anyone to work here. It’s a privilege to work here," said Montgomery, adding, "We have an obligation to the public and to our fellow employees to make their workplace as safe as possible."

Vaccine Requirement Background

On August 3, following an increase in COVID-19 infection rates, the City Council directed its Human Resources department to collect the vaccination status of all employees, and establish a mandatory vaccine or weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated employees, and contact the City’s employee labor associations to negotiate the impacts of the decision.

The city's COVID-19 screening testing program became effective on August 12, and the city now mandates weekly testing for all employees that are not vaccinated or have not provided a self-attestation form confirming their fully vaccinated status.

Testing is offered several times per week at various city facilities and employees are accountable for ensuring that they comply with the weekly testing requirement, with supervisor follow up as needed.

In addition, fully vaccinated employees are allowed to participate in the onsite COVID-19 screening testing on a voluntary basis. 

According to the city, as of September 15, 83% of city employees have submitted a self-attestation form attesting they are fully vaccinated. (This excludes employees out of the workplace, such as on leave or seasonal employees not currently scheduled to work.)

Additionally, the screening testing has been going on for five weeks. Approximately 60 to 70 employees participate in the onsite screening testing weekly, of which approximately 40 employees participate on a mandatory basis. To date, one employee who was not exhibiting symptoms has been identified as COVID positive through the screening testing.

According to a city legal analysis, mandatory vaccination policies are lawful. Agencies that implement a mandatory vaccination policy must consider requests for exemptions as a result of a disability precluding an employee from being vaccinated, or employees who assert a religious belief.

If an employee has an exemption request that is granted for one of these reasons, the city will look to engage in a reasonable accommodation process to determine whether accommodations can be made to enable the employee to perform all the functions of their job.

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