More than 100 Hennepin County employees could face discipline over vaccine noncompliance

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in November requiring all county employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and Monday is the current compliance deadline before disciplinary action is taken, according to the county.

Since then, county officials say almost 99% of its roughly 9,000 employees have complied with the policy, providing proof of vaccine or getting a medical or religious exemption.

As previously reported, the Board of Commissioners initially set a Jan. 4 deadline for employees to get vaccinated, but that date was pushed back to April 4. The county says just over 100 employees have yet to comply with the policy, which also states employees need to provide notice to human resources of the compliance by Thursday, April 8.

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If those employees don’t provide proof of compliance by Thursday, the county says it “will initiate discipline actions, as would be the case with failure to comply with any other mandatory county policy.”

In a statement this week, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2822 called on Hennepin County Administrator David Hough to rescind the vaccine policy and make COVID-19 tests readily available at county facilities.

“Front-line County workers kept delivering services through the global pandemic, without having access to vaccines,” the union said in a news release. “Workers want to continue to do their jobs as we transition out of the pandemic, with mitigation efforts such as masking and testing.”

AFSCME alleges employees who are out of compliance with the vaccine are subject to termination, but a Hennepin County spokeswoman said she could not specify what action the county will take against unvaccinated employees.

Additionally, AFSCME says two unions representing Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies have asked the courts to block the policy, claiming a COVID-19 vaccine was not set forth as a condition of employment in their collective bargaining agreements with the county.

However, a judge ruled Friday against the unions’ request for a temporary restraining order, stating the plaintiffs “failed to show that they will be irreparably harmed” if the policy is enforced.

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The county said it believes most of the outstanding employees will comply with the vaccine policy in the end.

Hennepin County said enforcing the vaccine policy will help toward the end goal of reopening facilities that have been closed due to the pandemic, with a full reopening by June 1.

“Vaccines are the best way to protect employees and the public we serve from serious health impacts from COVID,” a county spokeswoman said. “Vaccinations are another line of defense against COVID-19 and are a key part of Hennepin County’s approach to safely lifting COVID-19 restrictions and reopening buildings.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that a Hennepin County judge made a ruling in the lawsuit seeking to block the vaccine ruling.