U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has repeatedly argued that government workers fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine should be reinstated to their jobs and qualify for back pay.
According to the New York Post, Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio in Staten Island ruled on Tuesday that the city’s 2021 COVID vax mandate was unlawfully adopted, denied the workers due process and violated the separation of powers doctrine spelled out in the state constitution.
Accordingly, workers who refused to get jabbed should be rehired and receive back pay for the time they were unemployed.
Porzio’s decision directly affects 16 sanitation workers who were let go for noncompliance. But the lawyer for the group said it could be extended to the more than 1,750 former city employees, including 36 NYPD cops, who received the same punishment.
The Post noted that central to Porzio’s decision was the fact that the sanitation workers demonstrated they had natural immunity to COVID.
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The judge said his decision “is not a commentary on the efficacy of vaccination, but about how we are treating our first responders, the ones who worked day-to-day through the height of the pandemic.”
“They worked without protective gear. They were infected with Covid-19, creating natural immunity,” he added. “They continued working full duty while their exemption requests were pending. They were terminated and are willing to come back to work for the City that cast them aside.”
Additionally, Porzio said, “It is time for the City of New York to do what is right and what is just,” as he declared the city’s mandate “arbitrary and capricious.”
“The vaccination mandate for City employees was not just about safety and public health; it was about compliance,” Porzio noted. “If it was about safety and public health, unvaccinated workers would have been placed on leave the moment the order was issued. If it was about safety and public health, the Health Commissioner would have issued city-wide mandates for all residents.”
The judge added that the city “shouldn’t be penalizing the people who showed up to work, at great risk to themselves and their families, while we were locked down.”
The city’s legal team said they would appeal. But the top Republican on the City Council suggested that was a fool’s errand.
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Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, a Staten Island Republican, told the Post, “Even if it deals with just 16 people now, Pandora’s box has been opened.”
“The pendulum has swung toward our direction and at this point, I think the city is appealing it simply because the back pay and the lawsuits that will follow will be more expensive than the appeal,” he said. “It’ll go to the Court of Appeals and they have not been pro-mandate. You don’t just get to make the rules.”