NEW YORK – A Manhattan supreme court judge ruled on Friday that police officers who were fired because of the city’s COVID vaccine mandate had to be reinstated. The ruling is a a major victory for members of the NYPD’s largest police union.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank wrote the reverberating decision, saying the city’s vaccine mandate on the Police Benevolent Association was invalid “to the extent it has been used to impose a new condition of employment” on the union, the New York Post reported.
Furthermore, the mandatory requirement was also invalid since it issued enforcement beyond “monetary sanctions” prescribed in the law, the judge declared.
Frank noted it would be a “gross overstatement” of the city’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to claim power to enforce the vaccine mandate through suspension, unpaid leave, or termination.
As a result, the judge ordered reinstatement for all PBA members placed on leave or terminated due to this issue.
PBA President Pat Lynch said the decision confirms what they have maintained from the beginning of the conflict.
“This decision confirms what we have said from the start: the vaccine mandate was an improper infringement on our members’ right to make personal medical decisions in consultation with their own health care professionals,” Lynch said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to protect those rights.”
The judge didn’t deny the usefulness of the jab, but simply ruled that employees could not be punished for refusing the injection, according to The Post.
“To be unequivocally clear, this Court does not deny that at the time it was issued the vaccine mandate was appropriate and lawful,” the ruling stated. But the city hadn’t “established a legal basis or lawful authority for the DOH to exclude employees from the workplace and impose any other adverse employment action as an appropriate enforcement mechanism of the vaccine mandate.”
Frank said that any new condition of employment would have to be included in a collective bargaining agreement between a labor union and the city.
The ruling comes on the heels of another favorable decision for NYPD officers as Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth ruled earlier this month that an NYPD officer who sued over the mandate couldn’t be fired for refusing to get the shot, Law Officer reported.
Officer Alexander Deletto, who is Catholic, sought a religious exemption, but it was denied by the city Feb. 15, and later shot down on appeal. The only explanation for denial was that it “does not meet criteria,” according to his lawsuit.
The nine-year police veteran filed suit the day before he was set to be fired on Aug. 5 for not complying with the city vaccination policy. A temporary restraining order blocked his termination until the case could be heard, which occurred September 13.
Bluth said Deletto, 43, should be allowed to keep his job in the ruling. Moreover, the judge noted the city really did not provide a reason why his request was denied.
The two rulings could also set precedents for other unions in various city departments since the mandate isn’t codified in their collectively bargained labor deals.
For starters, the two FDNY unions said Friday they’d look to obtain reinstatement for their members who refused to get the shot. Others will likely follow suit.