ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — During the pandemic, many New Yorkers lost their jobs for refusing to take the COVID vaccine. But a recent decision made by an Administrative Law Judge could get court workers rehired; they would also receive back pay with interest. Experts say at least 200 people lost their jobs as a result of the mandate.
“This is the right of choice. No one who’s an American citizen, this is not Russia, no one should be forced to do something,” said Dennis Quirk, President of the NYS Court Officers Association. In August of 2021 the Unified Court System announced a COVID vaccine mandate for all court employees effective September 27. Quirk said the court unions believed getting vaccinated was a choice for individuals to make. “And what was the purpose of forcing people in the court system to get the vaccine, when the people coming in, the lawyers, the public, the legal aid, the attorneys, everybody else… none of them had to get the vaccine,” said Quirk.
Multiple court unions filed a charge against the States Unified Court System claiming they violated civil service law 209-A of the public employees Fair Employment Act. “The law is very clear, an employee – whether it’s a public sector employee or a private sector employee – when they’re hired there’s terms and conditions of employment. So if an employer wants to alter the terms and conditions of employment, they can do it, but they first must have to negotiate with the union,” explained Quirk.
In February, the Judge agreed with the unions and ordered the court systems to among other things:
- A cease and desist from imposing COVID-19 vaccines & testing
- Make bargaining units for employees who lost accrued leave, compensation or employment because of the mandate with interest
The unions still must decide how they want to move forward.