Los Angeles County Tuesday defended its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees in the wake of a petition filed by the union representing Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, which asks a judge to declare that the Board of Supervisors lacks legal authority to suspend or fire deputies for noncompliance.

While declining to comment on the court action, a representative for the county said extensive steps have been taken during the pandemic “to keep the public and employees safe and the vaccination policy is an essential public health measure intended to protect employees and the public we serve.”

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs brought the petition Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, also seeking an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.

On Aug. 4, the Board of Supervisors established a mandatory vaccination policy requiring all county employees, including those employed by the sheriff’s department, to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The board maintains it has the legal authority to subject those failing to comply to disciplinary action, including being fired.

But according to the union’s suit, that disciplinary power rests exclusively with the sheriff — and the current holder of that office, Alex Villanueva, has said he will not enforce the county’s vaccination policy due to the adverse impact on his ability to ensure public safety.

“Thus, the parties are in fundamental disagreement as to whether the county, acting through its Board of Supervisors, may impose disciplinary action on department employees,” the suit states.

“It is imperative for ALADS and its represented employees to obtain the instant declaratory relief so that such represented employees may govern their conduct accordingly.”

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