NEW YORK (TND) — A Monday ruling from the New York State Supreme Court will compel public employers in New York City to both rehire anyone they let go because of the city’s vaccine mandate and provide those terminated workers with back pay for any time they may not have been allowed to work as a result of the mandate.
The ruling stems from a case brought forward by former Department of Sanitation employees who were fired for failing to comply with the mandate. The defendants included the city, its departments of health and sanitation, Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Health Commissioner David Chokshi.
Among other issues, the plaintiffs argued the city's vaccine mandate for public workers violated their rights under the state Constitution.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Porzio wrote in his ruling on the case that while the city’s health commissioner has the authority to issue public health mandates, he “cannot create a new condition of employment for City employees” or “terminate employees.”
Though vaccination should be encouraged, public employees should not have been terminated for their noncompliance,” Porzio wrote in his ruling.
At one point, the city required vaccine mandates for all employers, public or private. Then, in March, Adams issued Executive Order 62, providing exemptions to the city’s vaccine mandates for athletes, “performing artists” and other celebrities.
Ultimately, last month, Adams announced the vaccine mandate for private employers would come to an end on Nov. 1.
Nonetheless, Porzio declared in his ruling that Adams’ Executive Order 62 rendered the city’s vaccine mandates “arbitrary and capricious.”
As this court stated in its decision in the Rivicci matter, this is not a commentary on the efficacy of vaccination, but about how we are treating our first responders, the ones who worked day-to-day through the height of the pandemic,” Porizio wrote in his ruling.
The vaccination mandate for City employees was not just about safety and public health; it was about compliance," Porizio continued. "If it was about safety and public health, unvaccinated workers would have been placed on leave the moment the order was issued ... If it was about safety and public health, no one would be exempt. It is time for the City of New York to do what is right and what is just.”