LA County Supervisors move to take COVID vaccine enforcement out of Villanueva's hands

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a motion that could result in the termination of more than 4,000 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies. 

The board approved a motion brought forth by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell that would change civil service rules and give the county personnel director say in whether to discipline or terminate employees who don't comply with LA County's employee COVID vaccine mandate.

The order requiring all county employees to be vaccinated was issued in early August 2021, and affects more than 110,000 LA County employees, including those who work for the sheriff’s department and LA County Fire. The deadline for employees to show proof of vaccination was Oct. 1, 2021.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been an outspoken critic of the mandate and has refused to enforce it, warning the rule could result in a "mass exodus" of sheriff's deputies. 


The change to the rules would essentially take the decision out of Villanueva's hands. According to the motion documents, supervisors believe, "increased compliance with the policy is critical to combating the COVID-19 emergency, as the virus remains an ongoing and evolving threat to the county workforce and community."

The motion also cites data from the county, which shows that less than 60% of LASD's employees are fully vaccinated as of Feb. 1, and 74% of the more than 5,000 COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claims filed by County employees as of Jan. 29 have been filed Sheriff's Department employees. Just over 80% of all LA County employees are vaccinated.

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LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a statement Tuesday condemning the decision.

"This action is in response to an individual – Sheriff Villanueva, to be specific," the statement read. "To change a policy over one individual isn’t appropriate." 

"Our Board should not seek an approach that erodes the management responsibilities of our county departments’ leaders nor results in the mass firing of essential workers," she continued. "We still have an invaluable opportunity to broker solutions by working with labor union leaders – we have not exhausted that course of action."

The rule changes still face another hurdle, however. The board will review the motion yet again at a meeting on March 15 before a final vote.

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