Judge orders reinstatement of unvaccinated New York City employees with back pay

by Samantha Flom

Photo: Adobe Stock

A New York Supreme Court judge ordered the reinstatement of New York City sanitation workers who had been terminated over their vaccination status Monday, ruling that the city’s vaccine mandate violated the state’s constitution.

The mandate, which took effect on Oct. 20, 2021, required all city employees to provide proof of having received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine by Oct. 29, 2021. The petitioners in the case were sanitation workers fired from their positions in February for failing to comply with the order.

“The vaccination mandate for City employees was not just about safety and public health; it was about compliance,” ruled New York Supreme Court of Richmond County Judge Ralph Porzio.

Noting that the mandate had not been enforced equally across the board for all public and private employees, the judge reasoned, “If it was about safety and public health, no one would be exempt.”

Adding that it was time for the City of New York “to do what is right and what is just,” Porzio held that the mandate was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine and the equal protection rights of the terminated workers.

The judge ordered the immediate reinstatement of the sanitation workers to “full employment status, effective October 25, 2022, at 6:00AM,” adding that they were also entitled to back pay from the date of their termination.

In response to the ruling, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Chad LeVaglia, stated: “We just defeated the vaccine mandate for every single city employee, not just sanitation [but] FDNY, NYPD, Department of Corrections. For all the brave men and women who have been our first responders and have been brave through all this, you’re now free, and you should be able to go back to work.”

However, according to ABC7, the city intends to appeal the decision. 

“The city strongly disagrees with this ruling as the mandate is firmly grounded in law and is critical to New Yorkers’ public health,” a city spokesperson told the outlet Tuesday. “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.”

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