City Attorney Mike Feuer said Monday that a federal lawsuit brought against the city by a group of Los Angeles Police Department officers demanding that the court toss the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees is “much more political statement than it is sound legal argument” and predicted it would lose in court.
The Los Angeles City Council last month approved an ordinance requiring city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by early October, unless they are granted an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Under the mandate, employees would be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a weekly negative COVID-19 test.
The lawsuit, filed Saturday in Los Angeles federal court, alleges the mandate violates the employees’ constitutional rights to privacy and due process. It also contends that data suggests that naturally acquired immunity may provide greater protection against the coronavirus and its variants than vaccine-induced immunity.
“It’s a lawsuit that I am confident we will win,” Feuer said. “The U.S. Supreme Court, and courts across the country, have upheld vaccination mandates by government and they’ve done so because they said the greater good compels it. The greater good compels this right now. This lawsuit is much more political statement than it is sound legal argument. Again, I’m confident we’re going to prevail.”
The suit takes issue with the ordinance’s statement that unvaccinated employees are at a greater risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 within the workplace and risk transmitting the virus “to the public that depends on city services.”
The plaintiffs — six LAPD officers — argue that “the city does not provide any evidence to support this premise, despite mounting data suggesting fully vaccinated individuals contract and transmit the COVID-19 Delta variant just like non-vaccinated individuals.”
The LAPD employees suing over the mandate are named in the lawsuit as Jason Burcham, Rodge Cayette, Michelle Lemons, Michael Puno, Susana Reynoso and Ana Fuentes. Among the group are officers who have “experienced and recovered from COVID-19,” the suit states.
“Studies indicate that these plaintiffs’ natural antibodies and immunity are greater than their vaccinated peers,” plaintiffs allege.
Along with the city, the complaint names Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and City Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo as defendants.
Garcetti said that the vaccination requirement would save lives.
“My first responsibility is to protect lives,” the mayor said. “It’s not a difficult decision, 91% percent of the people dying in our hospitals are not vaccinated and you’re 11 times more likely to die without the vaccination.”
He said that city employees “interact with the public. We can’t be out there and be spreading something that kills. This is pretty simple. People have their legal rights but we’re not going to back away.”
The suit argues that there’s no evidence that natural-acquired immunity is not as effective as the jab.
“The city does not and cannot point to any evidence that vaccinated individuals have longer lasting or more complete immunity than those who have recovered from COVID,” according to the complaint.