COVID-19: City staff that don’t get vaccinated could be dismissed

Toronto's mandatory vaccination policy states that unvaccinated city employees may face discipline

Under the the City of Toronto’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, staffers who don’t get vaccinated could lose their jobs.

As previously announced, all city employees are required to be fully vaccinated by October 30 except for those who have a human rights reason not be vaccinated.

On Thursday, the city released the full policy, which takes effect on September 7.

“Employees who do not comply with this policy may be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal,” the policy states.

The policy requires city staff to provide proof of their vaccination status by September 13. Anyone who does not produce proof or who discloses that they are not vaccinated must take an education session on the benefits of vaccination.

Employees who do not get the COVID-19 vaccine for human rights reason must request an accommodation and provide written proof of the need for accommodation.

Otherwise, unvaccinated staffers must get a first dose by September 30 and a second dose by October 30.

Asked last week whether city staffers who refused to get vaccinated would be put on unpaid leave, Mayor John Tory said all options are on the table.

“We’re simply saying that the full range of options that is always open to the city with respect to many different policies is still open to us with respect of this policy,” he said. “This is a serious decision that has been taken. It’s a serious policy on a very serious matter.”

Employment lawyers have said employers can legally terminate staffers who refuse to get vaccinated. However, refusing to be vaccinated may not meet the threshold for a “with cause” termination under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, meaning a let-go staffer could qualify for severance.

“It is important to note that Ontario sets a high bar for termination with cause,” a blog post by the employment law firm Whitten & Lublin states. “As such, many employment lawyers have the opinion that refusing to be vaccinated would likely not meet the threshold required for a termination for cause.”

The city says it is undertaking a mandatory vaccination policy because the fast-transmitting Delta variant is driving an upward trend in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Public health data has also shown that there is a higher incidence of COVID-19 among unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated people.

Several large employers in the city have started rolling out mandatory vaccination policies in a bid to push up the province’s slowed vaccination rate.

The Toronto Zoo, the Toronto Police, hospitals and the major banks began implementing policies after the province announced vaccine mandates for health-care workers, public employees and teachers.

To date, 83 per cent of eligible people in Ontario age 12 and up have had one dose and 76 per cent are fully immunized.


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