San Francisco to Suspend FFs, Cops who Don't Report Vaccine Status

Aug. 20, 2021
City firefighters could face seven days of unpaid suspension if they fail to report their vaccination status by this month's deadline.

Editor's note: Find's complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

San Francisco is moving to suspend 20 employees in the police, fire and sheriff's departments who refused to disclose whether they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, demonstrating how seriously officials are taking the city's vaccine mandate for its employees.

The employees will receive a letter from their department heads Thursday that outlines the consequences for failing to report their vaccination status by the Aug. 12 deadline. According to the Department of Human Resources, the city is recommending a 10-day unpaid suspension for the 11 employees in the Police Department, seven in the Fire Department and two employees in the Sheriff's Department.


Hundreds of employees in other departments — including Department of Public Health and the Municipal Transportation Agency — who have not reported their status could receive similar letters next week. The city is still working on finalizing who will receive those letters.

"The health and well-being of city employees and the public we serve are top priorities during our emergency response to COVID-19," according to the letter, obtained by The Chronicle. "Your failure to comply with the vaccination status reporting requirement endangers the health and safety of the city's workforce and the public we serve."

The letters will arrive as San Francisco grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant, with the unvaccinated making up the overwhelming majority of those who are hospitalized or killed by the virus. The data shows that the vaccines are extremely safe and very effective at preventing severe COVID-19.

San Francisco was the first large city in the country to require all municipal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, unless they have a valid religious or medical exemption. All employees had to report their vaccination status to the city by Aug. 12, and those without valid exemptions must be inoculated 10 weeks after the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccines. The Department of Human Resources already gave employees a two-week extension to report their status.

The city has said failure to get the shots could eventually lead to employees losing their jobs.

The vaccines are currently under emergency use authorization but are expected to get full approval soon.

While the city is recommending that the employees be suspended, it's up to their managers to make a final decision that employees can appeal.

The overwhelming majority of the city's 36,000-person workforce said they are vaccinated, but there are still about 4,300 employees who have not gotten the shots.

According to city data, many of the unvaccinated are frontline workers, including at least 634 employees in the Municipal Transportation Agency, 500 in the Police Department, 490 in the Department of Public Health, 242 in the Fire Department and 190 in the Sheriff's Department.

Earlier this month, the Deputy Sheriffs' Association, which represents the city's sheriff's deputies, threatened a wave of resignations if the city enforces its policy requiring vaccinations for its employees,

Meanwhile, a San Francisco firefighter sued the city last week over the requirement that all municipal employees report their vaccination status and eventually get vaccinated. In a San Francisco Superior Court filing last week, Eigil Qwist said the mandate violates the religious freedom of city employees, even though he may apply for a religious exemption.

The suit asks for an emergency restraining order against the city that would prohibit it from asking for vaccine status and requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.

The suit says Qwist objects to requiring employees to share their vaccination status because "it is our religious belief that it is important to keep said information to ourselves and not let it fall into the hands of those who do not have our best interests at heart."

Legal experts have said employers can in fact require employees to get vaccinated.

Qwist was among the nearly 200 employees who attempted to rebuff the mandate and other COVID-19-related protocols — like testing and mask wearing — by submitting identical, conspiracy-tinged letters to the Department of Human Resources. The letters suggested the city is infringing upon their "God-given and constitutionally secured" rights.

When reached by phone Thursday, Qwist said he is "fighting for choice and rights," but declined to comment further.


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