Employees of the City of Bethel were informed last month that they could either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or request an exemption, or they may lose their jobs. The few unvaccinated staff who remain have been placed on administrative leave. Some are looking for new employment opportunities.
When the vaccine mandate went into effect, the city had 17 employees who had not been immunized. The city's workers union attempted to overturn the vaccine mandate, but the city refused to compromise on the issue. Since then, two of those employees have resigned, one has obtained a religious exemption, and ten others have been immunized. Two and a half weeks after the mandate went into force, there are still four unvaccinated personnel on the payroll. Despite the fact that they have been placed on a six-week extended administrative leave, the city is hoping that they will get vaccinated and that the city will not have to terminate them.
On a bright and sunny afternoon, KYUK spoke with two of these employees who were working outside the Bethel Job Center. As of now, Jason Polk and Jim Boan of the Public Works Department maintain that they will not receive the vaccine and are searching for alternative employment. Polk is wearing his City of Bethel cap, while Boan's kid is waiting in the vehicle, shouting out "Apa" every once in a while in the backdrop of the scene. They've just finished filling out applications for jobs on the inside.
What she wanted to know was: "What are you interested in?" she said. And I shared a variety of information with her. And then we went through the computer and looked for items, and then we selected them. There were also things that required a lot of certifications and other things. In several areas, I received a small amount of instruction. This is nothing compared to what a lot of them are asking for these days," Polk added.
Polk claims that despite the advanced qualifications he claims he is up against, he is not overly concerned about the prospect of finding work. He reasoned that worrying would be counterproductive. Polk stated that he did not want to receive the vaccine because he is concerned about the vaccine's long-term consequences, which he believes cannot be determined at this time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccinations are both safe and efficacious in humans. Approximately 188 million people in the United States have been immunized against COVID-19 so far.
Polk believes he will be financially secure for the foreseeable future. He began saving money when the city began questioning him about his immunization status in August, prompting him to take action.
"Oh, we're just checking to see who has the shot," says the crew. Who has their immunization card in their possession and who does not? I anticipated that and thought to myself, 'Okay, I've got this, okay.' Polk explained that he had begun putting things away.
He does not anticipate a future in which vaccination requirements will be mandated for every employment.
Polk's appointment was arranged at the same time as that of his good buddy Jim Boan, who is also employed by the Department of Public Works. Boan hasn't been putting money aside.
"Monetarily, it's going to be difficult, you know, till we find a job for me, you know?" Boan expressed concern.
Boan has stated that he will not be getting vaccinated since his wife will leave him if he does so..
What will he do if all of the jobs for which he would be qualified demand vaccinations?
"I'm hoping it doesn't come to that. " If it does, then it does, you understand. "I'm going to have to learn to subsist on the land," Boan remarked.
As previously reported, both employees, as well as another unvaccinated employee from Bethel Public Works, have been placed on administrative leave since September 27. According to James Harris, the human resources director for the City of Bethel, their first two weeks were paid because they had to go through a hearing with the city manager first, which took place on Monday. He asserted that they were entitled to due process under the law.
Following the hearing on Oct. 8, all three workers were placed on a 30-day unpaid administrative leave, which began immediately.
Why don't you just fire me and put this whole thing behind you?' I inquired. Polk expressed himself in this way.
Harris explained that this is due to the fact that the city is not "heartless."
The fourth city employee who has not been vaccinated is an investigator with the Bethel Police Department. The city has delegated the administration of his case to the state administrative court. While he awaits his hearing, he will continue to receive his full salary, which was approximately $80,000 per year as of 2020.
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