COVID-19 vaccines during Mayor Bill de Blasio's observation of the vaccinations of healthcare worker Tara Easter at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan on Monday, December 14, 2020. (303066)
Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

This week a State Supreme Court judge and a federal judge temporarily blocked the city and state’s vaccine mandates for municipal workers and health workers.

On Tuesday, the New York Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the city’s vaccine mandate for municipal workers. Unions and the Municipal Labor Committee sued the city over the mandate not addressing religious and medical exemptions.

Prior to the court’s ruling, Mayor Bill de Blasio required all city workers to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. Public school teachers are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Not getting at least one dose of the vaccine by Sept. 27 or not testing could have resulted in termination.

Several unions, including the largest public employee union DC37, have been rallying against the vaccine mandates. The union says members should not be forced to get the shot.

“While we do believe our members should get the vaccine, we do not believe it should be a condition of employment,” DC37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “Clearly, the courts agree. The fight is not over, but we are energized by this decision and ready to keep going on behalf of our members.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 vaccine mandates are a matter of state or other applicable law. The agency cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states “once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents them from taking the vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship.”

“New York City’s education worker vaccine mandate, which has been embraced by the White House, goes into effect on Sept. 27,” spokesperson from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said. “The court’s action today expires on Sept. 22. There is no delay in the City’s implementation of this vaccine requirement.”

In Upstate New York, a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from requiring medical workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Similar to the State Supreme Court’s decision, the federal court said that state was not addressing religious exemptions.

The ruling came after Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, N.Y. announced they would temporarily stop delivering babies after 30 employees resigned when they refused to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The temporary halt on deliveries will start on Sept. 25.

“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” Chief Executive Gerald Cayer said at a news conference. “It is my hope that the (state) Department of Health will work with us in pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department.”