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812 Boston City Employees Placed On Unpaid Leave Over Vaccine Mandate

BOSTON (CBS) - More than 800 Boston city employees have been placed on unpaid leave for not complying with the city's COVID-19 mandate.

The mandate, announced by Acting Mayor Kim Janey in August, requires city employees to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID testing. The city announced rolling deadlines for employees with the final deadline being October 18.

As of Tuesday, a city spokesperson said approximately 812 city employees have been identified as non-compliant and placed on unpaid leave. There are approximately 18,000 people who work for the city of Boston.

The deadline for Boston Public School employees was September 20th. As of Tuesday, 92 percent of BPS employees had complied, a spokesperson said.

Rapid COVID-19 testing was offered at Boston school bus yards and some schools, Tuesday. A BPS spokesperson said employees could attend work and receive a paycheck if they tested negative.

"We are now implementing contingency plans for bus transportation and other school operations impacted by employee leaves of absence, due to unverified vaccination or testing," a spokesperson said. "We continue to work closely with our diverse workforce, and our union partners, to ensure employees have access to vaccination, testing and verification systems to comply with the mandate."

Jessica Tang, the President of the Boston Teacher's Union, said roughly 99% of teachers are following the mandate but there have been some hiccups with its implementation.

"We haven't had issues with folks say they don't want to be tested. The issue is more about the availability of the testing. And so originally there were a few testing sites across the city and we're really pushing for onsite testing capabilities," she said.

Boston Public Schools said it was also deploying staff to go retrieve paper vaccine and testing verification forms from employees. Those forms were also printed in Spanish and Haitian Creole.

For any employee who may find the mandate unreasonable, Boston University Health Law Professor Michael Ulrich says they do not have much recourse.

"It's really tough to say this is still burdensome for me when really, it seems relatively clear that the city is trying to avoid firing people," he said.

The city did not provide WBZ with compliance data for other departments.

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