TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Pima County has been hit with a lawsuit over its surcharge for unvaccinated staff.
The suit claims the county is violating federal law.
Jim Parks is executive director of the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs, which filed the complaint against Pima County.
“It’s not the kind of fight we thought we’d ever see. I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
The non-profit organization represents about 3,000 members of law enforcement across the state — about 100 in Pima County.
They’re upset over a $45 per pay period surcharge on health insurance premiums for unvaccinated staff, which Parks called a “substantial amount for those living paycheck to paycheck.”
“If you’re going to have a disincentive such as a surcharge like this, you have to impose a reasonable alternative standard,” said employment attorney Jeff Jacobson.
Jacobson said the surcharge violates the law and he wants to find out whether the Pima County Board of Supervisors knew that when they imposed it.
“What is clear from the public records that were available to us before we filed the lawsuit was that they carefully contemplated it,” he said. “They received legal advice. They did not disclose what the legal advise was and yet they went ahead with the disincentive. So were they misled by Pima County administration or did they do this with eyes wide open?”
He believes this is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, a case of first impression.
“In other words,” Jacobson explains, “No other lawsuit like this in the country has been brought. And in fact, to our knowledge, other cities and government entities are following Pima County’s lead, but they have not as of yet actually implemented the same kind of disincentive without a reasonable alternative standard.”
The lawsuit could impact more than just members of AZCOPS — it added “all others similarly situated”.
As of Monday, that’s about 800-900 unvaccinated workers.
“Until the higher court tells us that we’re not able to continue the fight, what they’re doing is correct, then we’ll stop,” he said. “But until then we’ll continue to fight until we have nothing left to fight for.”
Jacobson said they’re hoping a hearing on their motion for preliminary injunction would happen within weeks, but that’s up to the U.S. District Court.
KOLD reached out to Pima County early Tuesday afternoon for an interview. A spokesman responded and said the county has no comment on pending litigation.
You can find the lawsuit and application for preliminary injunction below.
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