NY Supreme Court Rules Employees Fired For Not Getting Jab Must Be Re-hired With Full Back Pay

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OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

When the shots that were to vaccinate America from the COVID-19 virus became available, they were touted to protect the vaccinated person from the virus as well as inhibit transmission of the virus to others. Although there was evidence to the contrary, some municipalities and even the federal government tried to force the shots on citizens by holding their jobs hostage during the pandemic. Many left their jobs or were fired for not submitting to the jab.

Some people had health issues that would preclude them from getting any vaccination, some had doubts about the shot itself, and some claimed a religious exemption that has been honored in the past.

In New York, vaccinations became required, and among others, a group of 16 sanitation workers was among those relieved of their jobs over the mandate to get the shot. New York City alone fired roughly 1,400 employees for being unvaccinated under the mandate adopted by former Mayor Bill Dede Blasio and enforced by current Mayor Eric Adams. Many of those workers were police officers and firefighters.

Even though firing city employees for refusing to be jabbed, New York Mayor Adams in March gave an exclusion to performers and athletes, presumably so that money-making attractions such as large sporting events and live performances would not bring tourist dollars to a grinding halt if those groups denied the shot. The backlash at the unfair ‘double standard’ was furious.

When others were exempted, the sanitation workers brought suit against the city for firing them. And now The New York Supreme Court agrees that the firing of these employees was not lawful.

This week a ruling by a Staten Island judge found that a segment of the municipal workforce should not require vaccination.

The court sided with the sanitation workers in part after the performers and athletes were allowed vaccine exemptions. “In March, when Mayor Adams made that exclusion he invalidated the entire vaccine mandate. So that was the main premise of our case,” attorney for the sanitation workers Chad Laveglia said.

Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio ruled Monday that the vaccination requirement for the group of 16 sanitation workers suing the city is arbitrary and capricious.

 “Being vaccinated does not prevent an individual from contracting or transmitting Covid-19,” the ruling notes. 

The judge ruled the “petitioners should not have been terminated” and that “If it was about public safety and health, no one would be exempt.”

This exact thought has been debated since the shots became available, and a high court has now stated it.

The groundbreaking ruling would reinstate fired unvaccinated employees and order back pay. Just how much in backpay is still being calculated, but the group of sanitation workers who were fired for not complying with the city vaccine mandate can now exhale.

“After he announced his decision, there were claps cries, tears,” said the attorney for the sanitation workers, Laveglia.

New York City is still hoping to continue its mandates of its citizens in regard to the shot, apparently still thinking to selectively enforcing mandates. A spokesman with the law department released the following statement:

“The city strongly disagrees with this ruling as the mandate is firmly grounded in law and is critical to New Yorkers’ public health. We have already filed an appeal. In the meantime, the mandate remains in place as this ruling pertains solely to the individual petitioners in this case. We continue to review the court’s decision, which conflicts with numerous other rulings already upholding the mandate.”

President Joe Biden was asked about the ruling while getting his COVID shot and called it a “local judgment.” His own vaccine mandates focused on the federal workforce and employees at large companies.

New York City had not only enforced mandates for city workers but had levied a mandate on private workers as well. The first such mandate in the nation took effect on December 27, 2021. Mayor Eric Adams had enforced that mandate after he took office.

Finally, on September 20. 2022, the mayor announced that New York City’s private sector vaccine mandate would become optional for businesses beginning on November 1. On that day the Mayor also spoke of ‘flexibility’ for private businesses and students while at the same time launching a COVID-19 booster campaign, encouraging vaccinations for all.

After the NY Supreme Court ruling on Monday, the NYC Board of Health voted unanimously Tuesday morning to repeal completely the vaccine mandate for private employees. Employers in the private sector are now free to make their own requirements or lack of requirements known to their employees, as has been the usual procedure in the past.

As it has in the past appealed such decisions, the city is now appealing the judge’s ruling to reinstate municipal employees fired for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Until that court rules, the vaccine mandate for municipal employees remains in effect, ABC reports.

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