Police Union Files Lawsuit Against County After $45 Surcharge for Unvaccinated Employees

The Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs filed a lawsuit against a Pima County measure requiring unvaccinated employees who have not been granted an exemption to pay a $45 health insurance surcharge on their paychecks.

The policy took effect at the start of November, and on a biweekly pay schedule, would cost an employee about $1,170 for a full year.

The lawsuit said the county, which contains the city of Tucson and is the second-most populous county in Arizona, is forcing individuals to choose between losing money from their paychecks or getting a vaccination, no matter the hesitations they may have that could fall short of the reasons accepted for an exemption.

Pima County is not alone in imposing the surcharge. Grocery store chain Kroger announced a $50 surcharge for salaried, non-union employees starting in January. In addition, Kroger said it is changing its policy of two weeks paid sick leave for those employees who contract COVID, removing unvaccinated employees from eligibility for the leave, according to The Associated Press.

The AP also reported that Kroger was offering its employees $100 bonuses for getting vaccinated.

Delta Air Lines also implemented a $200 per month insurance surcharge for their unvaccinated employees Nov. 1, which they announced in August and said at the time they had a 75 percent vaccination rate among employees, according to USA Today.

The airline also began administering weekly COVID tests among its unvaccinated employees in September.

In Arizona, state health officials reported over 3,000 COVID cases and an additional 81 deaths caused by the virus, with a slight dip in hospitalizations to 2,723 as of Tuesday.

Arizona, COVID, Vaccine Requirement, Health Insurance
A nurse shows off a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Chatham County Health Department on Dec. 15, 2020 in Savannah, Georgia. A police union in Arizona has filed a lawsuit over a $45 health insurance surcharge implemented in November for unvaccinated Pima County employees that have not been granted an exemption. Sean Rayford/Associated Press

The association, which filed its lawsuit late last week, alleges the charge violates federal law by failing to offer a reasonable alternative to being vaccinated. The lawsuit said the county's wellness program, which imposes a surcharge on tobacco users, lets tobacco users take part in alternatives such as smoking cessation programs.

The county declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The state has now seen 1,323,997 cases and 23,324 deaths since the pandemic started.

But some of Arizona's largest hospital systems, including Banner Health, are being stretched more than ever.

Officials say staff are overwhelmed caring for COVID-19 patients and patients who delayed treatment for other medical issues. It has led to postponement of surgeries and non-urgent primary care doctor visits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.