Some workers will face penalties as city employee vaccination rate falls short of goal

CHARLOTTE — The city of Charlotte did not hit its 75% vaccination goal and there will potentially be financial penalties for workers who don’t get the shot.

A memo, obtained by Eyewitness News Reporter Joe Bruno, sent by Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones said the vaccination rate for the city increased from 62% to 70% after 679 employees got vaccinated in September during the city’s incentive period. The city was offering all vaccinated employees $250 and an additional $250 if 75% of the workforce got vaccinated by the end of the month.

“It is disappointing. I am not very surprised,” Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said. “I understand making choices for your own body. But then you also have to understand that there are societal costs to that as well.”

For those who choose to remain unvaccinated, they will no longer be eligible for the Wellness Incentive Program, which provides a financial reward through annual medical premium savings or city contributions for employees and spouses that participate and complete the incentive requirements. Employees opt into the incentive during annual enrollment.

According to the memo, it is worth an average of $775, and 95% of people enrolled in the city’s health care plan participate in it.

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Effective immediately, the city of Charlotte will also require the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment for all new hires.

“We must ensure that we are taking every measure, every precaution, to keep our residents and our employees safe,” Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera said.

Currently, the city is not requiring unvaccinated employees to submit weekly COVID-19 tests. That’s a condition Mecklenburg County has in place. The city is waiting for guidance from the Department of Labor on the White House’s testing and vaccine requirements for employers.

“If the Department of Labor requires that unvaccinated employees be reimbursed for time or cost of testing, this requirement would weigh heavily on any final determination we make related to testing or vaccine requirements,” Jones said in his memo. “Up to this point, testing programs have been difficult to implement. Any program that we structure would be designed to be efficient and minimize the cost to the city.”

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Vaccination rates:

According to the memo, the largest percent increase for operational departments were Housing and Neighborhood Services (13%), Charlotte Fire (12%), Charlotte Department of Transportation (11%) and Aviation (10%).

The top four departments for total increase in vaccinations were CMPD (184), Charlotte Fire (145), Charlotte Water (81) and Aviation (61).

The lowest vaccination rate belongs to the Charlotte Fire Department at 59%. The Community Relations Department, City Manager’s Office and Internal Audit Department have 100% vaccination rates.

Wellness Incentive Program

The city of Charlotte sent this information to employees on the incentive program:

  • Employees must be vaccinated to enroll in the Wellness Incentive program.
  • This will include spouses who are also covered under the employee’s benefit plan.
  • Employees, and their spouses if applicable, must provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 1.
  • Key dates: Oct. 20 – Dec. 1: Employees must upload proof of vaccination for themselves and their spouse, if on the city’s medical plan, to the HR portal; Jan. 1, 2022: The rates are set for Jan. 1 benefits cards.

Accommodations:

The city of Charlotte sent this information to employees on accommodations:

  • Human Resources will provide the employee/spouse/new hire a request form to complete.
  • There will be a panel of human resources professionals, the city attorney’s office and, as appropriate, a clergy representative to review and approve reasonable accommodations.
  • False statements made related to requests for reasonable accommodation, will result in a recommendation for termination.
  • For potential hires, false statements will result in disqualification for position or recommendation for termination: For potential hires, the false statements will result in disqualification for position or recommendation for termination.

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