Phoenix pauses COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees after federal court ruling

Dec 7, 2021, 2:00 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2021, 8:25 am
(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)...
(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix announced Tuesday it will pause the requirement that city employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 following a federal court ruling temporarily blocking a requirement for all federal contract workers to get the shot.

Phoenix announced in November it would be mandating employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 18, citing an executive order from President Joe Biden requiring compliance as a federal contractor.

Employees, regardless of telework status or a previous positive COVID-19 test, would have had to submit proof of vaccination unless a religious or medical accommodation was granted or be subject to progressive discipline up to and including termination.

“The city as it’s written is a federal contractor under the executive order, however, given the injunction, it is my intent that we pause implementation of the federal vaccine requirement for city employees that was contained in the federal contractor provision of the Executive Order 14042 until there is a final court ruling on this issue,” City Manager Jeff Barton said in a policy session following the announcement.

“Should the executive order and the mandate survive the legal process, we will attempt to coordinate implementation terms with the federal government and work with our employees.”

U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker, in Augusta, Georgia, issued a stay to bar enforcement nationwide in response to a lawsuit from several contractors and seven states.

The judge, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said the states were likely to succeed in their claim that Biden exceeded authorization from Congress when he issued the requirement in September.

“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” Baker wrote. “However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”

The city said in the policy session that 51% of city employees have submitted a completed vaccine card.

It was also noted 29% of the city’s staff tested positive for the virus and 24 employee deaths were related to COVID-19, while 747 workers’ compensation claims have been filed related to the virus totaling $5.8 million incurred. Most of the significant illnesses and death occurred in unvaccinated employees, the city said.

Tucson approved a similar ordinance last month, requiring city employees to receive at least one shot or an approved accommodation by Dec. 1 or be subject to termination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Phoenix pauses COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees after federal court ruling