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Lawmakers react to Germantown vaccination mandate for city employees

Is the decision even a legal one?
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After the City of Germantown announced to city employees they have until Labor Day to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, questions arose as to whether or not this decision is legal.

The mandate seems to violate a state statute that was voted overwhelmingly in support of, that strips municipalities of the power to impose a vaccine mandate on municipal employees.

“There’s a school of thought out there that this wasn’t drafted correctly,” said attorney Alan Crone. “And so, I think Germantown probably believes that they can get a judge to agree with them that it doesn’t prohibit them.”

One of only seven state representatives to vote against the statute in the House was Democratic Representative Dwayne Thompson, whose 96th District covers Cordova and parts of Germantown.

His nay vote was mainly due to the messaging of the bill.

“The message was to downplay the need to have the vaccination,” Thompson said. “Instead, I think the responsible thing for government is to encourage people.”

As to the vaccine mandate in Germantown, Thompson said he understood the logic behind the city’s decision, though he personally believes getting vaccinated should be a personal choice left up to the individual.

“The responsible thing to do is to make sure the citizens of Germantown feel safe around these employees,” he said.

“You know, an employer can have 80 percent of the workforce out on COVID, and that’s not good for business,” Crone said. “It’s not good for the remaining employees or the employees who are out.”

Republican Representative Mark White, whose 83rd District also covers parts of Germantown, issued the following statement on the decision:

What’s left for Germantown now is to take the matter to court.

“I think if Germantown is successful and the Tennessee courts strike [the statute] down and allow them to require vaccines, then I think you’ll see other cities and municipalities adopt those policies,” said Crone.

To test that theory, Action News 5 reached out to leadership in the neighboring city of Bartlett.

Mayor Keith McDonald said that he and his leadership are encouraging vaccinations and adherence to current masking guidelines.

While it could easily be different in another city, the City of Bartlett has no intentions of mandating vaccines among city employees.

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