BATH, N.Y. (WETM) — After refusing to get the COVID vaccine, court workers in New York are starting to get letters of termination. And some fired workers are suing the New York State Unified Court System (UCS), challenging the vaccine mandate.
They want their jobs back but don’t want to get vaccinated. “I really feel strongly that I will not be getting this vaccination under any circumstances,” asserted UCS court reporter, Jamie Hawley. “I’ll need to find another job.”
New York court employees had until April 4 to get vaccinated or face getting fired. Those employees are officially getting their letters of termination Tuesday. “I shouldn’t be forced to put anything in my body that I’m not comfortable with,” said Marjorie Coons, Senior Court Office Assistant at UCS. “I’m going to be having a termination date of April 7.”
In a letter distributed by the New York Office of Court Administration in March, employees were notified that they had been deemed “unfit for service” for failing to comply with the court system’s vaccine mandate. The letter stated that requests for medical or religious exemptions on, or after, the notice would not be considered.
“I put in for a religious exemption,” Hawley said. “I was just flat out denied.”
The lawsuit, filed in Steuben County, claims that the court system’s vaccine mandate violates the first amendment rights of workers by not allowing for religious exemptions. “It’s against my beliefs to get it. I’ve prayed about it, and I really feel strongly that I will not be getting this vaccination,” said Hawley. When asked about her religious beliefs, she said, “It’s very difficult to explain because it’s an internal feeling. I pray, and then I just let God lead.”
The lawsuit also states that the mandate fails to provide an exemption for employees who have “natural immunity” after being infected by the virus. “I had covid and I got the natural immunity, and my concern was that getting the vaccination would hinder my natural immunity,” said Hawley.
Antibodies from COVID provide limited immunity, but medical experts generally agree that it wanes in time. There are many examples of contracting COVID more than once, and anyone who is infected can pass along the virus to coworkers.
Currently, evidence from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the CDC shows that the vaccine is the best protection against getting the virus, whether or not you’ve already been infected in the past.
In a statement, UCS said it will not be “discussing pending litigation” and that its “position will be made apparent in court filings.”
Oral arguments were made Monday night, and so far, the judge has not made any indication of when the ruling will be. The state has asked that the case be dismissed, and Cory Hogan, the attorney representing the petitioners, has confirmed they will be appealing if that happens.
“The hope is that he will say that the court system did not have the right to terminate these people and allow them to go back to work,” Hogan said.