After refusing COVID vaccine, about 50 Mass. COs are now suspended

Bracing for a staff shortage, the governor issued an order activating National Guard personnel on Oct. 12

By Alison Kuznitz
BOSTON — Approximately 50 unvaccinated correction officers in Massachusetts have been suspended without pay as of Tuesday for not complying with Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

That number will likely fluctuate throughout the week as more disclipinary hearings are held, said Kevin Flanagan, the legislative representative for the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union.

“You’re taking good, qualified, hard-working men and women who have worked throughout this entire pandemic on the frontlines — not able to telework — and you’re basically telling them you’re suspended because you’re not getting the vaccine,” Flanagan told MassLive.

Those correction officers now have five business days to get their COVID shots, Flanagan said.

That will likely be followed by a 10-day suspension without pay — and ultimately termination, if officers still forgo vaccinations, according to the state’s website.

A federal judge earlier this month had denied a motion for a preliminary injunction sought by the union, which was arguing that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate was a violation of their rights.

More than 40,000 Executive Department employees and contractors were supposed to be fully inoculated by Oct. 17. Yet nearly 1,600 workers could be disclipined for missing that deadline.

Baker told reporters recently Human Resources officials would connect with noncompliant workers to find out why they haven’t shown proof of vaccination or filed paperwork seeking an exemption.

The governor’s office has yet to disclose details on how many employees are vaccinated — and how many received a medical or religious exemption.

Bracing for a staff shortage at the state Department of Correction, Baker on Oct. 12 issued an order activating up to 250 Mass. National Guard Personnel.

Next: COVID vaccine waivers were given to some Mass. COs, then they were told it was ‘in error’

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