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Newburg Heights mayor’s policy requires employees to get COVID-19 vaccine; unvaccinated employees terminated come September

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 11:21 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Should your boss be able to require you to get vaccinated?

Newburg Heights village leaders all have a strong opinion on how to move forward now that the COVID-19 vaccine is readily available in our area.

Should your boss be able to require you get vaccinated? One local Mayor is not giving his employees a choice in the matter though, at the risk of losing workers who don’t want the COVID shot.

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

“There’s nothing that says they have to get it, other than you,” Councilwoman Linda Giersz said.

Mayor Trevor Elkins is not giving his employees a choice in the matter though, at the risk of losing workers who don’t want the COVID shot.

Tuesday night, the council discussed whether it wants to uphold an executive order the Mayor put in place last week.

It requires Newburg Heights employees, from office staff to emergency responders, to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to stay working.

“I’m doing what I think is right for the community and the people who travel through the community and what I think is right for the employees,” Elkins said.

After this meeting, the mayor sent 19 Investigates an amended copy of the policy now in place.

Village of Newburgh Heights COVID-19 Vaccination Policy (5.5.21)

All employees of the Village must obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. Exceptions to this policy are allowed for employees who (i) maintain sincerely held religious beliefs protected under Title VII or (ii) have a medical condition which makes receipt of the vaccine dangerous or otherwise inappropriate for that individual. Where an employee qualifies for one of the exceptions, the Village will seek to make a reasonable accommodation, depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular position and job duties. The Safety Director may consider requests for a reasonable accommodation from employees who do not meet an exception on a case-by-case basis. Reasonable accommodations may include working remotely or working while maintaining public health social distancing requirements and wearing personal protective equipment including a mask and/or face shield that is purchased and provided for by the Village of Newburgh Heights. Custom or personally purchased gear shall not be considered acceptable. Where reasonable accommodation cannot be made, an employee will receive a written warning, to be placed in their personnel file, for non-compliance if the employee is not fully vaccinated on or before July 1, 2021. Where a reasonable accommodation cannot be made, an employee will receive a two (2) day suspension if the employee is not fully vaccinated on or before August 1, 2021. Where a reasonable accommodation cannot be made, an employee will be terminated if the employee is not fully vaccinated on or before September 1, 2021.

Employees who claim an exemption for religious purposes should sign a statement made under penalty of perjury and should provide a note from their pastor/rabbi/imam/spiritual leader that describes the basis for the religious objection. Employees who claim a serious medical condition should obtain a note from their health care provider that describes the serious medical condition and why the vaccination put them at risk. A generic note without explanation will be deemed insufficient to meet the policy requirements.

Employees must provide the Fiscal Officer with a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination record for their personnel file immediately upon completion of vaccination.

This policy must be distributed to each member of your department if applicable.

The council said there are 13 current employees who do not wish to get the vaccine.

“They are choosing not to get the vaccine even though their moral responsibility is to in fact do that,” the Mayor said.

However, those who denounce the Mayor’s executive order outnumber those who believe in it.

The chief of police and fire chief suggested the mandate be changed to allow unvaccinated employees to continue working but require them to wear a mask.

“I just worry about this affecting our personnel,” Police Chief John Majoy said.

For example, the fire chief says though he has 21 of 26 firefighters vaccinated, he can’t properly staff the fire stations if he loses the five who don’t want to take the shot.

“I would recommend it to everyone,” the chief said. “But, I don’t want to see it as a mandate for everyone in the fire department.”

The village’s attorney, Luke McConville, says the council does have the legal authority to adopt an ordinance that would uphold the mayor’s order going forward, and he recommended doing so with public safety in mind.

“I have a hard time swallowing the idea that as a government charged with first and foremost protecting the safety of the general public that we would knowingly put individuals in harm’s way when there is a vaccine available,” McConville said.

After more than half an hour of discussion, the council decided to send legislation to a special committee, as not everyone could come to an agreement.

“While the language around it may be legal, I think we are going to lose good people,” Chief Majoy said.

The Mayor concluded the conversation by saying, “I haven’t heard a single ounce of scientific evidence presented tonight other than we just don’t feel like we should have to do it. And, if that isn’t the definition of the inmates running the asylum, I don’t know what is.”

We will keep you updated on the matter as it moves through the council.

Councilmembers did bring up the fact that no other area cities or health agencies are currently mandating the vaccine for employers.

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