On Tuesday (October 25), a New York judge ruled the city must reinstate 16 sanitation workers it fired for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The ruling by Judge Ralph Porzio, who sits on the New York Supreme Court in Staten Island, explains that the city’s health commissioner could not change the employees’ terms of employment, pointing to President Joe Biden saying the “pandemic is over” and New York Governor Kathy Hochul ending the state’s state of emergency.
Porzio also ruled that the state owed the workers back pay from February when they were fired.
In his ruling, Porzio noted the city’s stance on a vaccine mandate was not only about health concerns but also about compliance, explaining that the mandate violated the equal protection rights of employees.
Porzio wrote in his ruling: “If it was about safety and public health, unvaccinated workers would have been placed on leave the moment the order was issued.
The judge added, “If it was about safety and public health, the Health Commissioner would have issued city-wide mandates for vaccination for all residents.”
Although the mandate became effective in October 2021, non-compliant workers were only fired in February.
Furthermore, the city’s vaccination mandate on private sector employees will end on November 1, according to an announcement by New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D).
Porzio referenced this change in his ruling, writing, “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 athletes, artists and performers.”
Porzio continued, “This is clearly an arbitrary and capricious action because we are dealing with identical unvaccinated people being treated differently by the same administrative agency.”
The city plans to appeal the ruling, emphasizing that the vaccine mandate for public sector employees remains in effect.