Judge sides with NYC workers who refused COVID vaccine

The Whole Story

FILE – A health worker administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pa., on Dec. 15, 2021. Government advisers are debating Tuesday, June 28, 2022, if Americans should get a modified COVID-19 booster shot this fall — one that better matches more recent virus variants. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(NewsNation) — A group of sanitation workers who were fired for not complying with New York City’s coronavirus vaccine mandate must be reinstated and given back pay, a New York state judge ruled this week.

In a decision released Tuesday, state Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio determined that the city’s health commissioner overstepped his authority when he created a new condition of employment for municipal employees.

“The Health Commissioner cannot prohibit an employee from returning to work,” Porzio wrote. “The Health Commissioner cannot terminate employees.”

As of last month, 1,761 city workers had been fired for not getting vaccinated against coronavirus, according to City & State New York.

The 16 former Sanitation Department workers who brought the lawsuit are now entitled to their jobs, as well as back pay from the date they were fired in February.

The city’s law department said Tuesday it had appealed Porzio’s ruling.

WHO’S TALKING ABOUT THIS?

The right. Of the outlets reporting this story, 62% lean to the right, 21% were considered left-leaning and 17% were in the center of the spectrum, according to NewsNation’s partner Ground News, which monitors media bias.

  • National Review: “New York Supreme Court Orders NYC to Rehire, Pay Back Wages to Unvaccinated City Employees”
  • The New York Post: “Judge tosses NYC COVID vaccine mandate, orders fired workers’ back pay”
IS THAT REALLY WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Yes. In an order released earlier this week, Porzio wrote, in part:

There was nothing demonstrated in the record as to why there was a vaccination mandate issued for only public employees in October 2021. This Court notes that Covid-19 rates were averaging under 1,500 per day in October 2021, significantly lower than today’s average Covid-19 rates.

Supreme court justice ralph porzio

You can read the full decision here.

WHAT’S ANOTHER SIDE OF THIS STORY?

Porzio’s decision comes just one month after New York City’s Democratic Mayor Eric Adams announced he would be lifting the private-sector COVID-19 vaccination mandate on Nov. 1.

Despite the change in policy for private employees, Adams said he intended to keep the requirement in place for public-sector workers.

Porzio addressed the apparent contradiction in his ruling.

“There is nothing in the record to support the rationality of keeping a vaccination mandate for public employees while vacating the mandate for private sector employees or creating a carveout for certain professions, like artists, athletes or performers,” Porzio wrote.

The judge called the requirement “arbitrary and capricious” and said the mandate unnecessarily penalized people “who showed up to work, at great risk to themselves and their families, while we were locked down.”

In an email to the Associated Press, the city’s law department said it “strongly disagrees” with the ruling and said the mandate, which was implemented in Oct. 2021, “is firmly grounded in law.”

A law department spokesperson told The Hill that the ruling “pertains solely to the individual petitioners in this case” and that the mandate “remains in place” for other city employees.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The decision in New York City is just the latest ruling in favor of workers who have challenged COVID-19 vaccine requirements across the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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