Get the shot or lose your job?: New policy could require COVID vaccines for County Prosecutor’s staff

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found some local workers could lose their jobs if they don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Internal memos show the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor is considering a new policy for his staff. Under that policy, staff members would have to prove they’ve had a vaccine shot by June 1, or show they have medical or religious reasons for not getting a shot. Otherwise, they will be placed on unpaid leave until the end of the pandemic.


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In one memo, Prosecutor Michael O’Malley wrote, “I am committed to providing the safest work environment I can for all of our staff and the public.”

Prosecutors, of course, deal with judges, lawyers, crime victims, and suspects.

One memo points out that an employee in the Prosecutor’s office died last month and COVID-19 may have been a factor.

But, talk of a policy that says, “get the shot or else,” has sparked debate.

We wondered can that kind of order be put in place? Would it stand up to a challenge?

So, we turned to civil rights attorney David Malik.

He said, “I think that any policy or rule that’s based upon sound scientific evidence is going to be very difficult to call unreasonable.”

The courts have struggled to handle cases during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meantime, Cleveland City Hall has not forced police, firefighters, or paramedics to get a COVID shot. There is no requirement for them even though they may have direct contact with people sick from COVID, and a firefighter died from complications tied to COVID.


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In fact, consider how many first responders have decided not to get a COVID shot. Sources in the safety forces tell the I-TEAM, out of nearly 700 Cleveland firefighters, only about half have gotten the vaccine. Another 150 have tested positive for COVID during the outbreak.

Another memo from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor shows he also considering a policy taking effect at MetroHealth Medical Center. Under that, workers must get the vaccine, or get tested for COVID weekly. All of this, so new.

Attorney Malik added, “There’s all kinds of employment issues raised. Privacy issues raised.”

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office includes more than 200 lawyers and nearly 200 support staff.

A final decision on any new policy has not been made. We will keep an eye on this and have an update when a decision is made.

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