ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This week on Empire State Weekly, we dive into the legalities of workplace religious exemptions after a federal judge granted an injunction to plaintiffs suing over New York State’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Federal judge David Hurd from Utica ruled, “The department of health is barred from taking any action, disciplinary or otherwise, against the licensure, certification, residency, admitting privileges or other professional status or qualification of any of the plaintiffs. On account of their seeking or having obtained a religious exemption from mandatory covid-19 vaccination.”

The state is now working to appeal the judge’s decision and Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she has the support of religious leaders across the state in getting people vaccinated.

We speak with attorney Derrick Hogan from Tully-Rinckey law firm to get a legal perspective on the next steps these workers claiming religious exemptions must take in order to have their requests granted by their individual employers, as religious exemptions for vaccines are historically difficult to get approved in the courts. Hogan says that with the injunction in place, hospitals and health care facilities will need to consider religious accommodation requests in connection with the vaccine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be granted as individual employees will have to set forth certain reasons as to why they believe they’re entitled to a religious accommodation to not have to take the vaccine.

We also examine how the pandemic is impacting the mental health of our children as many reenter their academic careers in person while navigating all the hurdles at school and at home. Anxiety-related health issues have grown among children statewide over the last year, in addition to other disturbing health trends.

We speak with Glenn Liebman, the CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State, to get better insight into how school districts statewide can accommodate those struggling, whether it be students, school staff, and parents. Liebman breaks down programs and training resources available the can assist in easing the strain on students’ mental health, as well as the statistics driving these trends so that administrators can better target areas of concern.

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