Arbitration Panel issues final Award for placing employees on leave; the Police Department’s updated compliance rate is nearly 100 percent

PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia today announced that an interest Arbitration Panel governing the implementation of the City’s workforce vaccine mandate for employees represented by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has issued a final Award addressing consequences for non-compliant officers, effective Tuesday, May 31, 2022.This is the third and final Award issued by the Arbitration Panel. On Tuesday, February 1, the panel issued an Award addressing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for members of the FOP Lodge 5 bargaining unit. That Award required the parties to provide the panel with an updated accounting of vaccinated and unvaccinated officers by Friday, February 18, after which the panel would reconvene to determine consequences to be effective on Tuesday, March 1 for non-compliant officers. On Friday, February 28, the panel issued an award delaying placing employees on leave until further notice to allow the panel to ensure that it had a complete and accurate accounting of which officers were not in compliance with the mandate. Based on the data provided to it on Wednesday, April 13, the Arbitration Panel found that approximately 97 percent of the sworn members of the Police Department have either been fully vaccinated, received at least a first vaccination shot, or had a request for a medical or religious exemption approved. Of the remaining officers, nearly all have submitted medical or religious exemption requests that are still being reviewed. Only a handful of active-duty officers remain out of compliance with the City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate policy as of Wednesday, April 13. The Arbitration Panel recognized that this level of compliance would not have occurred without the efforts of the FOP and the Police Department to educate and communicate with employees, and the panel commended the parties on their successful efforts.The Award issued today addresses the consequences for those small numbers of non-compliant officers, building on its February 1 Award. Highlights include: 

  • Covered employees who do not provide proof that they have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or have an exemption request to the vaccination requirements submitted by Tuesday, May 31 will be placed on Unvaccinated (U-Vax) Leave beginning Monday, June 6, 2022.
  • Employees on a leave of absence on Tuesday, May 31 must comply with the mandate before being permitted to return to work.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated by Tuesday, May 31, regardless of reason, are required to follow additional precautions, including double-masking or wearing a N95 or equivalent and submitting to routine COVID-19 testing.
  • Employees who receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Tuesday, May 31, 2022 must complete their vaccination series within 14 days of the schedule prescribed for the vaccine they received.
  • Any employee who has an exemption request denied, will have 10 calendar days to submit an appeal. If the appeal is denied, the employee must receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within 14 calendar days and complete their vaccination series in a timely manner or be considered out of compliance with the mandate
  • Employees will be placed on U-Vax Leave for a maximum of 30 calendar days following their removal from work for failure to comply with the mandate. Employees on U-Vax Leave will be required to utilize accumulated paid vacation, holiday and compensatory time and will be unpaid if they do not have sufficient time paid leave available.
  • Employees who do not come into compliance by becoming vaccinated or submitting an approved exemption request by the end of the U-Vax Leave may be separated from employment.
  • Individuals separated from employment for failure to meet the vaccination requirements of the Award are entitled to reinstatement for one year following the date of their separation, subject to their meeting all qualifications of the position, including any vaccination requirement, provided that the Police Department has budgeted vacancies in the position to which they seek reinstatement.

“The safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines remain the best way to protect Philadelphians and save lives in the ongoing struggle to fight this pandemic,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “As I have said before, as public servants, we bear a responsibility to mitigate the harm that would result from inadvertent transmission of COVID-19 to our colleagues and the public and to set an example for other organizations and companies. Our police officers are on the front lines—sworn to protect and serve our residents with honor and I want to thank them for their steadfast service in the face of adversity. I also want to thank the arbitration panel for coming to a fair and reasonable resolution for everyone.” While City employees may not simply opt out of vaccination, the City’s policy—and the Award handed down for employees represented by the FOP—does provide for religious or medical exemptions. Employees granted an exemption from the vaccination requirements will be required to follow additional safety protocols, including routine testing. The full Award can be found online.