Ask ELi: Vaccine Mandate for ELPS and City Workers, Including ELPD and Paramedics?

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

Vaccines have become widely available in our area.

In this issue of Ask ELi to Investigate, we answer questions about the possibility of the City of East Lansing implementing a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for its workers, including ELPD and ELFD’s firefighter/paramedics.

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Does the City of East Lansing have the legal authority to require employees to get vaccinated?

As of now, the City has no vaccine mandate, a fact that is drawing some criticism. And the short answer is yes, the City does seem to have that legal authority based on what happened when the City of Ann Arbor implemented a vaccine mandate for its employees last year.

According to MLive, the Ann Arbor City Council approved the move in August and then negotiated with the City’s labor unions. While negotiating, the City pushed the official start date back several times.

The Ann Arbor Police Officers Association sued to prevent the mandate from going into effect, and six individual officers joined the suit as co-plaintiffs. The judge sided with the City of Ann Arbor, and the mandate went into effect on Nov. 19. On that day, 96 percent of the workforce had been vaccinated.

Those who were unvaccinated were given an extension to Nov. 22, but those who failed to comply by then faced the penalty of being placed on unpaid leave. If they failed to get vaccinated in 30 days, they would ultimately be fired.

It’s certainly possible that the City of East Lansing could be sued if it implemented a Covid-19 vaccine mandate, but it appears likely that the City would prevail in court. Notably, MSU was also sued over its mandate and won in court.

This “Ask ELi” question was submitted by a reader following ELi’s recent update about the impact of the current wave of Covid-19 in East Lansing. In that article, ELi reported on City Manager George Lahanas’ answer to the City’s Park and Rec Advisory Commission’s request that the City implement a vaccine mandate for all City employees and people who serve on the City’s boards and commissions.

In his response, Lahanas defended the lack of a mandate and stated that the City had no plans to implement a vaccine mandate of its own, but would follow guidance from MIOSHA should that state-level authority implement a vaccine mandate.

So, is MIOSHA working on any type of vaccine mandate?

It’s a game of wait-and-see at this point, but we might soon have an answer.

On its website, MIOSHA has posted this: “Federal OSHA is requiring state plan states like Michigan to adopt ETS2 [the federal vaccine mandate] or equivalent by January 24, 2022. The agency is closely monitoring the legal challenges while preparing for the deadline to adopt ETS2 to align with federal standards.”

Those legal challenges include an appeal to the United States Supreme Court that is being heard today, Friday, Jan. 7. The appeal comes after a series of court challenges. Most recently, a federal court lifted the stay on the mandate, meaning that the vaccine mandate could legally proceed. The case being heard in the Supreme Court will likely determine if the federal mandate – and therefore a subsequent MIOSHA mandate – goes into effect or not.

Will East Lansing Public Schools enforce a vaccine mandate for its employees?

In an update to district families, Superintendent Dori Leyko said the following regarding the mandate.

“We’ll also be implementing President Biden’s “Vaccinate or Test” mandate in the coming weeks. Staff members will be required to be vaccinated or to obtain a negative PCR test result weekly,” wrote Leyko. [Emphasis hers.]

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