Judge: Vaccine mandate for D.C. government workers unlawful

Coronavirus Vaccine
Linda Glenn

FILE – A Jackson, Miss., resident receives a Pfizer booster shot from a nurse at a vaccination site Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. In August 2022, Pfizer and Moderna both asked U.S. regulators to authorize modified versions of their booster vaccine — shots that are half the original recipe and half protection against BA.4 and BA.5, the newest subtypes of the coronavirus omicron variant. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

(NewsNation) — The vaccine mandate for city government workers in Washington, D.C., is unlawful, D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross ruled Thursday.

The mandate, which required government employees to prove their vaccination status, was set in place in 2021 by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. If workers did not get vaccinated or secure an exemption, they faced suspension or termination depending on which level they landed on in the government’s discipline system.

“It is undisputed that the Mayor has a strong interest in combating the spread of Covid-19,” the judge’s order obtained by The Washington Post reads. “However, our system does not permit the Mayor to act unlawfully even in the pursuit of desirable ends.”

The judge’s ruling comes after the D.C. Police Union filed a lawsuit in opposition of the vaccine mandate.

The order adds that Bowser is “permanently enjoined from implementing, imposing and/or enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate … against the plaintiffs.”

It’s welcome news for the D.C. Police Union. Chairman Gregg Pemberton called the order a “significant victory” in protecting the rights of law enforcement and the journey there a “long and unnecessary fight.”

“Had the Mayor just engaged the Union in good faith bargaining, we could have reached a reasonable compromise that protected everyone’s interests,” Pemberton said. “Nonetheless, we are pleased that Judge Ross agreed with our arguments and issued this ruling. Now, all of our members can go back to doing the necessary work of trying to protect our communities from crime and violence without unlawful threats of discipline and termination.”

According to statistics provided to The Washington Post, 90 percent of D.C.’s city employees were fully or partially vaccinated as of the end of March.

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