First published in the Jan. 22 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
A city of Burbank policy mandating vaccinations against COVID-19 for its employees and commission members began Friday, though workers will have more time to submit proof of vaccination.
Simone McFarland, a city spokeswoman and assistant director of community development, said employees who did not submit either proof of vaccination or a valid exemption request this week would have one more week to comply with the policy. Those who didn’t provide either document after that period, she added, would be subject to a “progressive discipline process.”
McFarland did not respond to follow-up questions regarding the details of that process by the Leader’s deadline.
As of Thursday afternoon, she explained, the city had 78 employees who hadn’t submitted proof of vaccination or an exemption request. But she added that 29 of those employees were on leave, and would be asked to comply with the new policy upon their return to work.
A breakdown of which departments those employees work for was not provided, though previous estimates provided by the city indicated that the City Treasurer’s Office, the Burbank Police Department and Burbank Water and Power had the lowest vaccination rates. It was also unclear what percentage of municipal workers those 78 people represent, though a city report from 2021 estimates that Burbank employs roughly 1,500 people, which would mean that 5.2% of workers had not yet complied with the mandate as of Thursday.
Betsy McClinton, the city’s management services director, said during a City Council meeting on Jan. 11 that nearly 81% of Burbank’s municipal employees had been vaccinated, an increase from 73% recorded prior to the implementation of a testing policy in December. That policy, which the City Council approved shortly before passing the vaccination mandate, required city workers to test for COVID-19 weekly unless they are vaccinated.
“The City Council’s leadership in adopting both the testing policy and the vaccination policy has certainly contributed to this positive outcome for the city’s employees,” McClinton said at the time.
The vaccination mandate also applies to Burbank’s volunteer-led boards and commissions, McFarland confirmed. As of Thursday, only 28.8% of members had provided proof of vaccination, she said.
The City Council debated the vaccination mandate in October, with proponents saying it was necessary to keep workers and community members safe against the coronavirus and opponents saying it would infringe on personal autonomy and would lead to skilled employees quitting.
The city’s labor unions expressed broad opposition to the idea of the mandate, McClinton said then. After the City Council approved the mandate on a 3-2 vote, she and other officials met repeatedly with union representatives to discuss how the policy should be implemented.
The vast majority of Burbank residents have been vaccinated, with at least 83% of residents ages 5 and older receiving at least one dose and 76% being fully vaccinated. At least 40.9% of residents ages 12 and older have received a booster shot.