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LA County Firefighter Group Suit Over Vaccine Mandate in Peril

Published on Friday, January 6, 2023 | 5:54 am

A judge indicated Thursday he is poised to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a group of Los Angeles County firefighters against the county over its 2021 requirement that county employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra’s tentative ruling, if finalized after arguments on Friday, would result in dismissal of the one remaining cause of action brought by the LA County Free Foundation for violation of protected autonomous privacy rights under the state Constitution. The case has been whittled down after previous actions in both federal and state court.

In his tentative ruling, Kalra said he is not swayed by the firefighters’ privacy arguments.

“In many respects, professional firefighters enjoy even less freedom than school-age children or collegiate athletes,” Kalra wrote. “In order to maintain the highest level of readiness, firefighters’ lives are regulated and controlled like almost no other type of employee.”

Firefighters live and work in a group setting in 24-hour shifts and society believes these significant restrictions on them are reasonable, according to Kalra.

“In sum, those who choose the noble career as an emergency personnel set themselves apart from others in many ways including a diminished expectation of privacy,” Kalra said.

The county’s vaccination directive was issued on Oct. 1, 2021. The suit seeks court orders that both prohibit enforcement of the county vaccination order against any firefighter and that also direct the county to offer reasonable accommodations to firefighters so they can continue working without being immunized.

The suit also asks that a judge direct that there be no discrimination or retaliation against those firefighters who do not get vaccinated.

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