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City of Germantown becomes first Mid-South municipality to mandate employee COVID-19 vaccination

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 11:31 PM CDT
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GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Germantown is now the first municipality in the Mid-South to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all employees.

Germantown employees must get vaccinated by Labor Day or they could lose their jobs. The city’s decision may end up testing a new Tennessee state law.

Tuesday, August 3, Shelby County reported 374 new COVID-19 cases. LeBonheur Children’s Hospital confirmed two pediatric deaths connected to the virus. Hospital capacity in the Memphis metro is shrinking.

In announcing the employee vaccine mandate, Germantown City Administrator Patrick Lawton said, “We are all public servants and our collective efforts are vital to the health and well-being of the people we serve, the residents of Germantown. If one of our departments is understaffed due to COVID, we cannot deliver the services our residents expect and deserve.”

Lawton and Germantown Mayor Mike Palazollo says employees must be fully vaccinated by September 6, but in May, the Tennessee legislature passed a law prohibiting such an order.

“I did some checking and there’s a school of thought out there that the state law wasn’t drafted correctly,” attorney Alan Crone told Action News 5. “And so I think Germantown probably believes they can get a judge to agree with them that it doesn’t prohibit them.”

Not all in Germantown city government are 100 percent onboard yet.

“I was not consulted, nor was I involved in deliberations to implement this plan. I’d need to consult with our legal counsel before making further statements,” said Alderman Scott Sanders.

So for now, the conservative suburb of Memphis will be the first to test the water in the continuing fight against COVID-19.

“It certainly was the legislative intent that cities and municipalities could not require employees or anyone to be vaccinated,” Crone said.

Some Action News 5 viewers have asked if it’s legal for employers or cities to mandate experimental vaccines. Late Tuesday, the FDA announced its ramping up the timeline to give Pfizer’s COVID-19 full approval by early September.

The following email regarding vaccination was sent to employees:

“Positive COVID cases are once again rising quickly in Shelby County and across the country as the Delta variant proves to be more contagious. Ninety-nine percent of all deaths from COVID are unvaccinated individuals. Even as positive cases among fully vaccinated individuals emerge, those cases typically remain mild, proving the effectiveness of vaccinations against severe illness, hospitalization and death. There are still many people in our own families and among our citizens, though, who are too young to be vaccinated or have underlying health conditions that increase their risk of severe illness or death from COVID infection.

In the spirit of “Excellence. Every Day.,” the City of Germantown continues to take a proactive stance to protect our personnel, our families, and the citizens we serve. Just as every individual position at the City is important to the operations of the City, we each have a role to play in this fight as well. We are all public servants and our collective efforts are vital to the health and well-being of the people we serve, the residents of Germantown. If one of our departments is understaffed due to COVID we cannot deliver the services our residents expect and deserve. I firmly believe that there is no greater challenge or greater honor than to be in service to the public and so in making that choice to serve the public, we then serve the public and not ourselves. To that end, the following terms of employment will be effective immediately for all City employees:

  • Employees must stay home when sick (this is unchanged). As you would for any preventive illness, please call your healthcare provider with any COVID-related questions, whether you are ill or have been exposed to a positive case. Sick and  FMLA-Sick time can be used to cover these absences.
  • All employees must have proof of vaccination on file with HR or they will be considered not fully vaccinated. An employee is “fully vaccinated” two (2) weeks after receiving either (2) shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • ∙Effective immediately, all employees that are not fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask at all times while on City property or while performing City business. They will also be subject to weekly testing for COVID-19.
  • Employees have until Labor Day to finish getting fully vaccinated (and copies of vaccination cards submitted to HR). Leave time is available for vaccinations during working hours, and time off will be granted for employees who are unable to work because of vaccine side effects. Failure to meet this vaccination deadline may result in being placed on administrative leave and even termination. Employees requiring religious or medical accommodations will need to submit appropriate documentation to HR for consideration.
  • No city related travel will be allowed effective immediately for any employee who is not fully vaccinated.
  • New hires and prospective candidates shall be advised of requirements and expected to comply within an appropriate time frame.
  • Department heads and supervisors will be responsible for ensuring all masking and testing requirements are completed.
  • As with any safety standard, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken for anyone that knowingly puts others at risk by failing to comply with this directive.

If you have not personally tested positive for COVID, odds are you know someone who has. You may even know someone who has died from it. Studies show that friends and family are the best tool for encouraging others to get vaccinated, so please keep sharing your stories to help others both inside and outside the organization to understand the importance of taking such a simple step.

On behalf of Mayor Palazzolo and myself, we appreciate your cooperation and teamwork in these efforts to continue to protect and serve, and lead the charge forward to hopefully help eliminate the threat of COVID.”

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