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Connecticut’s Vaccine Mandate for State Employees Begins Today

Gov. Ned Lamont’s mandate will place state workers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on unpaid leave for up to 45 days, and they will also be ineligible for jobless pay. 2.2 percent of workers are still noncompliant.

(TNS) — More than 600 Connecticut state employees who refuse Gov. Ned Lamont’s vaccine mandate could be placed on unpaid leave for up to 45 days and would not be eligible for unemployment compensation, officials said.

The unpaid leaves will start as early as Friday, and the next step would be voluntary termination as the state hires a replacement for a noncompliant worker’s job, Lamont said.

The noncompliance rate dropped to 2.2 percent Thursday on an edict that Lamont announced in mid-August that state employees must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Look, I don’t want to lay anybody off,” Lamont told reporters Thursday. “I don’t want anybody going on unpaid leave. I want everybody working and working safely. ... At the end of the day, it’s been over a month now. People have a chance to get this right. At some point, we’ve got to hold people accountable if you refuse to get vaccinated and refuse to test.”

Overall, 671 state employees were listed Thursday as noncompliant in 50 different agencies, departments, and commissions — ranging from small agencies like the chief medical examiner’s office to the state prisons with more than 5,000 employees. Some small agencies like the offices of the attorney general and the state treasurer have 100 percent compliance.

“We’re down to a small group,” Lamont said of the 2.2 percent. “I think a lot of those are inadvertent. A lot of those got the wrong ID numbers. Personnel is talking to them, making sure they can get that corrected. Then those few outliers who don’t want to participate, either testing or vaccination, they’re going to have to take some unpaid leave.”

In some cases, state troopers, correctional officers in the prisons, and other employees are listed incorrectly as unvaccinated when they actually were vaccinated, state employees said. The state has been working to correct the problem.

Lamont said some of the problems are due to “user error” by employees. He said this week that he would not place state employees on unpaid leave if they had made a sincere effort to comply and then ran into paperwork problems.

But Carl Chisem, president of Connecticut Employees Union Independent, SEIU Local 511, said he has personally witnessed the computer problems and disputed the notion by Lamont that they might have been due to human error.

For those who continue to refuse, the state will start the process of filling the position, Lamont said.

“Look, over a period of time, we hold your job open,” Lamont said when asked by The Courant. “We’d like to think that, after a little bit of unpaid furlough, you want to come back. You get tested, vaccinated, whatever it might be. If it goes on longer than that, we’re going to have to hire somebody to fill your job because there’s a real need. We can’t go without. At that point, there’s no guarantee of your job back.”

The state released agency-by-agency numbers Thursday, and Lamont said that officials will release the number of employees who received religious or medical exemptions from vaccination. Those with exemptions, however, still must receive weekly testing.

Before the agency totals were publicly released, Lamont said that he was not overly concerned about staffing levels in any department due to non-compliance.

“We’d be worried if that was the case because then you’d have a real problem in that particular department,” Lamont said. “But I haven’t heard that. No.”

Unlike other situations, the workers on leave will not be eligible for unemployment benefits “because we’ve got a job for you,” Lamont said. “You’ve just got to play by the rules.”

©2021 Hartford Courant. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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