Mayor Demings says un-vaccinated Orange County employees will not be fired

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings Thursday announced Orange County employees would not be terminated if they refused to follow the vaccine mandate. 

Firefighters say they are feeling a bit relieved, but they’re still not totally satisfied with the mayor’s announcement. They say he’s only backing down because he had no other choice.

"It’s a step in the right direction. We’re still not satisfied. It’s still a mandate, however you want to see it," said Orange County firefighter Jorge Hernandez. 

Some firefighters in Orange County are still fired up about the county’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, even after Mayor Jerry Demings announced firefighters would no longer be at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t get the shot. 

"We advised the firefighter union that the county would discipline non-compliant employees only to the point of a written reprimand," said Mayor Demings. 

Hernandez says that’s not good enough. "We don’t feel that we should be reprimanded for anything, for our choice, for our freedom." He’s also concerned that write-ups would put them at risk of losing promotions. "Most of us have never been in trouble and then this affects possible promotional opportunities." 

Some members of Orange County’s firefighter union believe the mayor only backed down on termination because the county would face fines for the hundreds of firefighters who refused to get vaccinated. 

Hernandez is happy to keep his job but says the fight isn’t over yet. "When you hear termination, your mind just starts going around in circles. So today no longer hearing that termination makes us sleep a little bit better at night, but ultimately it doesn’t satisfy us." 

The cap on disciplinary action applies to all county employees.

Hernandez says firefighter union negotiations with the mayor will continue next week.

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