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Boston puts 812 workers from five city agencies on unpaid leave for failing to get vaccinated

Officials did not breakout the number of employees on unpaid leave by individual agency

A view of Boston skyline.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The Janey administration placed 812 city employees from “public facing agencies” on unpaid leave after they missed Tuesday’s deadline for getting vaccinated or agreeing to undergo regular and repeated COVID-19 testing, city officials said.

At a public appearance in Roxbury on Wednesday, Acting Mayor Kim Janey said the action affects employees of five city departments included in the first phase of the vaccination or testing requirement for city workers. The five departments are Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Libraries, Boston Center for Youth and Families, the Disability Commission, and the Age Strong Commission.

“We want to protect our workers, and we want to protect the public that we serve,” Janey said. “So we continue to work to ensure compliance with this mandate.”


By the end of the day Wednesday, 175 of the 812 workers placed on leave had filed paperwork to comply with the rule, submitting either proof of their vaccine or their negative test results, according to the city. A spokeswoman said those employees could return to work on Thursday, leaving 637 still on unpaid leave pending proof of their compliance.

The largest of the five departments is Boston Public Schools, with 11,000 employees including teachers, bus drivers, bus monitors, and school janitors. Other city agencies have later compliance deadlines, Janey said. In all, the city has 18,000 employees.

Neither the city nor the school district provided a breakdown of the number of employees placed on unpaid leave in each individual agency, despite requests from the Globe. A spokeswoman said more detailed data was not available, due in part to privacy concerns and in part because the processing of verifications is not automated.

“We are working through operational plans to make sure that we continue to deliver the services that the residents of our city deserve,” Janey said.

Xavier Andrews, a BPS spokesman, wrote in an e-mail that the system has “not experienced any major disruptions to daily district operations.”


Wednesday’s morning bus performance showed few delays, and mirrored the previous day’s, Andrews said, with 99 percent of buses arriving within 15 minutes of the start of school and 100 percent arriving within 30 minutes.

Separately, the president of the Boston Teachers Union said in a statement that “close to” 99 percent of its teachers are either vaccinated or have agreed to undergo the testing regimen. The union said that the compliance rate is 84.4 percent for paraprofessionals and applied behavior analysis specialists.

The BTU also represents school nurses, psychologists, guidance counselors, and substitute teachers, according to its website, but the union did not provide compliance rates for those employees. Leaders of the union representing Boston’s school bus drivers could not be reached on Wednesday.

“We are glad to share that close to 99% of our teachers have successfully complied with the vaccine and testing mandate,” Jessica Tang, the president of the BTU, said in a statement. “To continue our support for access to life-saving vaccinations, the union has also established a recurring vaccine clinic at our union hall in Dorchester.”

Janey said city employees who continue to refuse to participate in the COVID-19 safety regimen will be fired.

“The goal of the vaccine verification process, obviously, is to get as many employees vaccinated as possible that continues to be the goal,’' she said. “So the number [of refusals] is getting smaller and smaller by the day, which is a testament to all of the work that our team is doing to make sure that folks have access to the testing that folks, certainly can choose to get vaccinated.”


Last Wednesday, the administration reported that a total of 1,400 city employees had not provided proof that they had been vaccinated or had agreed to engage in routine COVID-19 testing as part of the effort Janey announced Aug. 13 to combat the highly contagious virus.

Since then, nearly 600 have complied, leaving 812 who lost their regular paychecks, city officials said.

Leaders of the teachers union said they will continue to help members who need assistance to verify their status, either as a vaccinated person or as someone opting to participate in the testing regimen.

School district officials are also continuing their efforts to support employees, with COVID-19 testing at bus yards and schools, and frequent vaccine clinics. The district has held dozens of such clinics in recent weeks, said Andrews, the BPS spokesman, while sending reminders to employees about the vaccination mandate and deadline. The district also translated verification forms into Spanish and Haitian Creole, and sent staff to its central kitchen and other work hubs to collect paper copies of vaccine verifications in person.

“We are seeing our compliance rate steadily increase,” he said.

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Jenna Russell can be reached at jenna.russell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jrussglobe.