A New York judge has ruled that ten employees terminated by the New York City Department of Education for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine must be reinstated with back pay.
State Supreme Court Judge Ralph J. Porzio determined that the city’s denial of religious accommodations to certain employees was “unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious,” Fox News Digital reports.
The case, known as DiCapua v. City of New York, revolved around school principals, teachers, and other educators who sued after the city rejected their requests for a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate.
“Hundreds more teachers fired” under Democrats' vaccine mandate in New York City. pic.twitter.com/7H5H5T2XsU
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Judge Porzio’s 22-page opinion stated, “This Court sees no rational basis for not allowing unvaccinated classroom teachers in amongst an admitted population of primarily unvaccinated students.”
He concluded that the decision to deny these classroom teachers based on an “undue hardship” without individualized analysis was arbitrary and unreasonable. Consequently, each classroom teacher among the plaintiffs was granted a religious exemption from the Vaccine Mandate.
The vaccine mandate in New York City applied to all Department of Education workers from October 1, 2021, to February 10, 2023, leading to thousands of teachers and education workers losing their jobs for non-compliance.
Sujata Gibson, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, hailed the ruling as a “watershed moment” in the teachers’ fight for relief. The decision not only provides relief to these ten teachers but also establishes a significant precedent for other teachers denied religious accommodation.
However, the ruling did not extend to petitioners who had not initially applied for religious accommodation under the city’s vaccine mandate, which had been previously deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in 2021.
The court also rejected the plaintiff’s motion for class certification, stating that the proposed class was “overbroad.”
While the ruling marks a significant victory for the affected educators, many believe it only scratches the surface of the broader challenges posed by vaccine mandates in the workplace.
The New York City Department of Education and the mayor’s office have not yet responded to requests for comment on the ruling.
In the wake of the decision, Michael Kane, a New York teacher who lost his job over the vaccine mandate, stated, “Justice for only 10 of us doesn’t even scratch the surface of the injustice suffered by NYC workers as a result of this illegal mandate.”