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Chicago city workers not vaccinated by next week will face ‘no pay status,’ but can opt to be regularly tested

One week after the mayor warned that “there will be consequences” for city employees who fail to comply with an Oct. 15 vaccine deadline, the new policy makes good on that threat.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Chicago city employees who fail to report their vaccination status by Oct. 15 will be placed in a “non-disciplinary, no-pay status,” but there will be a testing option for those who haven’t gotten the coronavirus vaccine.

After weeks of confusion and united opposition from police unions, Mayor Lori Lightfoot finally announced the testing option that Fraternal Order Police President John Catanzara told his members about one week ago.

“Employees who are not fully vaccinated by October 15, 2021, including employees who have received an approved medical or religious exemption, must undergo COVID-19 testing on a twice weekly basis with tests separated by 3-4 days,” the policy states.

“Employees are responsible for obtaining those tests on their own time and at their own expense, if any, and for reporting those results to the city,” it says. “The testing option will only be available through December 31, 2021. Thereafter, employees will be required to be fully vaccinated unless they have received an approved medical or religious exemption.”

Last week, Lightfoot warned that “there will be consequences” for city employees who fail to comply with the Oct. 15 deadline. The new policy makes good on that threat.

“Employees who fail to report their vaccination status by October 15, 2021 will be placed in a non-disciplinary, no-pay status. Disciplinary action may also be taken against employees who fail to report their status as required by the policy” on the city’s vaccine portal, the policy states.

To comply with the new policy, employees must provide information about the type of vaccine received. They must also upload either a scanned copy or photograph of their vaccination card.

Those who have been fully vaccinated by the deadline “will receive one additional personal day that must be used by June 30, 2022,” the policy states.

The additional personal day is not “subject to vacation carry over rules.” Nor will it be offered to sworn employees of the Chicago Police Department.

Catanzara could not be reached for comment. Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter, who has also demanded a testing option, could not be reached.

Last week, Catanzara told his members, “We anticipate the city to maintain the 10/15/21 date for REPORTING YOUR VACCINE STATUS ONLY…There will likely be a testing option available for a period of time after implementation of the policy, through the end of the year at least,” he wrote.

“We cannot speculate on or divulge our legal position and judicial options at this point,” he said. “The hope is to negotiate an agreed policy between the unions and the city. We commit to exhausting all options to protect our members rights and address their legal concerns.”

In a press release announcing the vaccine policy, Lightfoot was quoted as saying that the “end of this pandemic is within reach” if Chicagoans continue to get vaccinated with city government leading the way

“It is crucial to the health and safety of every resident that we continue our equitable, targeted efforts to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 across our city and especially within our city departments and agencies,” the mayor was quoted as saying.

“That is why we are providing a testing option until December 31 while we continue to do everything at our disposal to educate employees with true scientific data and research as well as continue our conversations with our unions and labor partners.”