CALIFORNIA—On Tuesday, June 11, Los Angeles County ended the vaccine mandate. Firefighters who were suspended from work during California Governor Gavin Newsom’s vaccine mandates have been ordered to go back to work. Veteran firefighters who lost their jobs during the mandates may return, but their position on the force is not guaranteed.

A reported 86 city workers who refused to comply with Newsom’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate were either laid off, terminated, or placed on paid leave for non-compliance. Among those suspended were Los Angeles County Fire Department (LAFD) firefighters. Last week, the LA City Council voted to end the vaccine mandate for city employees.

According to the Los Angeles County webpage, “L.A. County’s declaration of a local public emergency on March 31, 2023. On the city webpage, there are FAQS available giving answers to basic questions.

The question presented is, “Do I have to be vaccinated to work in Correctional, Detention, and adult care facilities?

The City’s answer is as follows: “Starting on April 23, 2023, the State Public Health Officer’s COVID-19 Vaccination order for workers in these settings was rescinded and those vaccination requirements will no longer be required…”

According to reports, LAFD is calling employees placed on paid leave back to work, but they will still have to go through their Board of Rights hearings which could potentially lead to those firefighters being fired.

John Knox is a veteran firefighter who worked for the department for over two decades. He is now in a legal battle over losing his job.

Knox was fired without pay in 2023 after the vaccine mandate was rescinded. He has spoken publicly about it saying it has been, “God, his family, and his savings,” that have gotten him through the last two years without pay.  

“We are going to continue to fight as long as we can. Everybody thinks that this is about a shot. And partly it started with not wanting to take an experimental drug, but I should have the right to not have the government telling me what to put into my body.”

An estimated 86 city workers lost their jobs during the pandemic over vaccine mandates. Many of those who were terminated or laid-off attempted to claim religious exemptions that were reportedly denied.