MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County’s HR director told unvaccinated county employees they will be dismissed if they fail to report their weekly COVID-19 test results two weeks in a row. HR Director Paula Herman also said if unvaccinated employees fail to report four times during the testing program, they will be subject to dismissal.
“If you are unvaccinated and do not submit your Covid-19 testing documentation by the end of your seven day rolling deadline, you will be suspended immediately without pay,” Herman said. “If you go two consecutive weeks, or two times in a row, without submitting that Covid-19 testing documentation, you will be dismissed. If you are suspended a total of four times due to noncompliance of this testing program, you are also subject to dismissal.”
The remarks were made in an hour-long town hall meeting held Thursday morning. A recording of the meeting was obtained by Eyewitness News reporter Joe Bruno. County Manager Dena Diorio, Health Director Gibbie Harris, Deputy Health Dr. Raynard Washington and HR Director Paula Herman answered questions posed by employees.
During the town hall, Diorio told employees the county is not considering any new incentives for workers to get vaccinated. The city of Charlotte is offering $250 for all employees vaccinated by September 30. If 75% of the city workforce is vaccinated by the end of the month, all vaccinated employees will get an additional $250.
“At this point I don’t feel offering incentives will move the needle to get people vaccinated,” Diorio said.
County Manager Dena Diorio said she is aware of employers charging unvaccinated employees higher health care premiums but said it is unclear if Mecklenburg County has the legal authority to do so.
The county is requiring unvaccinated employees to take PCR tests and employees were warned they need to factor in test turnaround time. The weekly testing requirement applies to all county departments, but the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which has its own HR department, is providing a grace period for test results.
“MCSO supports the County’s initiative and requires all unvaccinated MCSO employees to submit a weekly COVID-19 test result to County Human Resources,” MCSO spokesperson Janet Parker said. “In cases where unvaccinated employees are experiencing delays in receiving their COVID-19 test results, employees are to submit documentation notating they have taken a COVID-19 test and are awaiting results.”
Non-exempt employees have to get tested after hours or on the weekends, not during lunch breaks or work hours, Herman said. Unvaccinated employees who recovered from COVID-19 within the last three months do not have to take weekly COVID-19 tests. The county considers people who are not fully vaccinated to be unvaccinated. That means if someone has only gotten one dose of Pfizer, they are considered to be unvaccinated.
According to Mecklenburg County, 598 employees were suspended for failing to upload their weekly COVID-19 test results, which is 13.5% of the workforce. Of those 598 employees, 290 are full-time.
The health department, land use and environmental services and park and recreation all have nearly 40 suspended workers in each of their departments. The Department of Social Services leads the way with 119. More than 1100 people work for DSS.
Chairman George Dunlap said DSS workers may feel the impact for a brief period of time, but should be able to manage.
“I’m certain it will probably put a little stress and strain on the employees that have done what they were supposed to do,” he said. “But I don’t anticipate that will be the case for an extended period of time.”
Across all departments, Chairman Dunlap doesn’t expect the public will see any noticeable changes.
“I don’t expect that operations will change much,” he said. “Besides, there’s still time for those who previously decided that they weren’t going to do it to comply. And I expect that some of them will.”
A spokesperson for Mecklenburg County said DSS will continue to operate as usual.
“Mecklenburg County DSS has hard-working employees who provide vital social services programs to our most vulnerable residents daily,” spokesperson Tammy Thompson said. “DSS operations plans to continue as usual with the least disruption in service as possible until all of our staff return.”
A spokesperson for Mecklenburg County said the county is reviewing all suspensions initiated Wednesday and making adjustments as necessary. Several county employees have reached out to Channel 9 believing they have been mistakenly suspended. A spokesperson for Mecklenburg County did not immediately respond to a question asking whether incorrectly suspended employees will get back pay.
(Watch Below: Meck County suspends unvaccinated workers for not uploading weekly COVID tests)
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