Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office employees face possible suspensions over COVID-19 policy

There’s fear over public safety in Ramsey County over the possible suspension of some deputies.

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The Ramsey County Board says more than 100 sheriff’s office employees are in violation of the county’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing policy.

If the employees don’t get the vaccine or take a weekly test, they could face a suspension next month.

“One hundred thirty-four of them reside in the sheriff’s office so we are seeing a localize challenge of compliance at this point,” Ramsey County Manager Ryan O’Connor said. “We continue to work directly with the sheriff and his leadership team to seek compliance. If an employee continues to remain out of compliance starting on February 14th they will receive a five-day suspension.”

A statement from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office said employees are worried about privacy and not the policy. However, there are concerns regarding discipline and giving employees time to schedule a test. They say the sheriff’s office will support the policy, assuming these issues can be addressed.

KSTP received this statement from the Ramsey County Deputies’ Federation:

While we had, and continue to have, concerns related to the impact of such a policy on working conditions, including employee privacy, the Ramsey County Deputies’ Federation (RCDF) is generally in agreement with the County’s COVID vaccine policy. The ability to successfully implement is a paramount concern.

This policy does not reflect our position that is an employee’s right to choose to be vaccinated or tested. However, we remain concerned with the security and confidentiality of submitting private medical records into information systems previously breached, which resulted in at least 117,000 people who may have had their private health information compromised.

It has been reported that access to confidential medical data would be limited to select individuals in Human Resources, Enterprise Resource Management, those with a need to know, or others authorized by law. However, the Federation is concerned with reports that this may not be the case, as employees beyond that have access to confidential employee vaccination status information. Further, the County’s incentive paid to employees to get vaccinated may be subject to public data requests as a matter of public personnel data, which effectively makes the vaccination status public data.

As far as the discipline, this is the first the RCDF has heard of the scope of non-compliance with the vaccine policy. For Ramsey County to jump straight to a 5-day suspension without prior notice of non-compliance is excessive and out of step with progressive discipline. The effects of such draconian disciplinary action would exacerbate the already low number of deputies when public safety is an overriding concern. Anytime there is a reduction in deputies on the street, in courts, or any work areas, it impacts public safety. Certainly an en masse suspension would further impact public safety and diminish already difficult recruitment efforts.

Ramsey County Deputies’ Federation