City of Windsor rescinds vaccine mandate for employees

Windsor City Council has voted to rescind the vaccine mandate for employees. (Jason Viau/CBC - image credit)
Windsor City Council has voted to rescind the vaccine mandate for employees. (Jason Viau/CBC - image credit)

The City of Windsor will no longer require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

During a council meeting Wednesday, councillors decided to rescind the City of Windsor's vaccine mandate. The mandate, which was put in place September 2021, required staff members to show proof of two COVID-19 vaccine doses to remain employed at the city.

Dana Paladino, the city's acting executive director of human resources, told CBC News Wednesday that the rescinded mandate means that anyone looking to work with the city will no longer need to show proof of vaccination.

"We, in administration, have been constantly looking at the science, looking at what other municipalities are doing, looking at what different levels of government are doing, private sectors," Paladino said about the reason behind lifting the mandate.

"It's our obligation to continue to monitor the situation and just given the direction that COVID has gone in in the last while and looking at some of the emerging science around transmissibility, we thought the time was right that the vaccine mandate is no longer needed."

When asked how this might impact the lawsuit filed by at least 20 former employees who were put on leave in November 2021 and terminated in January 2022 for not complying with the vaccine mandate, Paladino said she couldn't comment.

"Because we're involved in litigation as well as arbitration, I can't really speak to the implications on any of that, I will just say that all of those matters ... were initiated well beyond the current time and what we're looking at now," she said.

As for whether those who were fired for not being vaccinated could get re-employed, Paladino said it's "premature" to comment on that because "if they are a plaintiff in the lawsuit or involved in a grievance against us, how that plays out ... remains to be seen."

"We'll definitely have to talk to the unions and we'll have conversations with the unions, with their legal council to determine how best to move forward, but there's a lot of factors at play," she said.

In an email to CBC News, the lawyer for the former workers Courtney Betty, said the City of Windsor decision "does not end the lawsuit."

The group of former workers wants the city to declare that suspending or terminating the employees was unconstitutional, and to pay general damages of $250,000 per plaintiff, aggravated damages of $50,000 per plaintiff for "mental distress," and punitive damages of $1,000 per employee per day since March 1, 2022 up until the mandate was rescinded. It also wanted the city to repeal vaccination as a condition of employment.

"It may be an opportunity for the city to have a resolution discussion, but unsure as what the city will do now," Betty added.

Even though the mandate is now revoked, Paladino said the city will remain "flexible" with this mandate as the pandemic continues to shift. She said the city will continue to "do what's needed" to keep people safe from COVID-19.