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Columbia rolls out deadlines for vaccination for city employees

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 3:15 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The City of Columbia has released a set of deadlines for city employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

On Monday, the City of Columbia released the vaccination policy which states that all city employees must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as a condition of employment by New Year’s Eve.

Here’s the timeline:

  • Nov. 15: Employees must be partially vaccinated or submit deferral or exemption papers
  • Dec. 17: Employees must have received a second dose (or first Janssen dose). It’s also the deadline to submit paperwork for a $500 bonus for completing the vaccination series.
  • Dec. 31: Deadline to be fully vaccinated.
  • Jan. 1: Consequences are implemented.

Exemptions for the mandate include religious, medical conditions, or pregnancy.

The policy states:

“...However, applicable laws do not require that the City provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship on the City, or which would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others...” the document reads.

The city says that employees who do not comply with the mandate will be subject to the following beginning on January 1, 2022:

Written Reprimand for insubordination, with the following consequences in place, until the employee becomes fully vaccinated:

  • Required adherence to periodic testing protocol
  • Required adherence to strict safety procedures and practices, such as: wearing facial coverings while inside City buildings, facilities, and vehicles, when interacting with others while on the job, practicing social distancing, engaging in frequent handwashing, and compliance with post-exposure testing and quarantine/isolation protocols;
  • Ineligibility for optional training and related travel;
  • Ineligibility for work-related travel, including travel for conferences, out-of-town meetings, etc.;
  • Ineligibility for take-home car (except for on-call work assignments);
  • Ineligibility for the cost of living raises and merit raises (once the employee becomes fully vaccinated [see definition], any applicable raise shall only apply prospectively)*Non-compliant employees who later bring themselves into compliance will not receive retroactive pay covering the period of non-compliance;
  • Ineligibility for promotional opportunities to a higher pay grade;
  • Ineligibility for lateral transfers to another department;andoIneligibility for any perks, bonuses, or other benefits granted to employees who are fully vaccinated or who have been granted accommodations.

Check below to view the policy in its entirety:

The documents state that falsification of vaccine records could result in discipline including immediate “separation from employment”.

City Manager Teresa Wilson has stated publicly she is looking to avoid firing anyone over the policy.

However, she said if workers do not get vaccinated and then fail to adhere to consequences, getting fired is still on the table.

“That goes without saying with anything you do at the city if you don’t follow the consequences as outlined, the protocols as outlined, then obviously that could lead you down a path of separating employment with the city,” she said.

A city spokesperson told WIS 81 percent of the city’s staff is vaccinated as of Monday (77 percent fully vaccinated, 4 percent partial).

The remaining 19 percent of the city’s 2,300 workers represent more than 400 employees who are unvaccinated.

Updated vaccination numbers on Columbia Police and Columbia Fire were not immediately available Monday night, but WIS has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the data.

Wilson said the agencies have “come leaps and bounds” on their vaccination rates.

“I do encourage them because of their role as first responders to really strongly consider vaccination and the role they particularly play as they touch members of our community first,” she said.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin sent the following statement on the policy:

I support the city’s policy & its thoughtful implementation. I want to encourage everyone to please get vaccinated as soon as you are able to help us end this historic scourge and save lives.

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