Federal judge denies attempt to block dismissal of unvaccinated New York City workers

Thousands of city workers face termination over vaccination requirement
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- About 4,000 municipal workers -- less than 1% of New York City's workforce -- face termination Friday after refusing to abide by a vaccine requirement.

A religious rights group filed a lawsuit on behalf of city workers that sought to stop them from losing their jobs as planned because they're unvaccinated.

The lawsuit, was filed in Brooklyn federal court by a group called New Yorkers for Religious Liberty, Inc, alleged violations of the workers' fundamental religious and constitutional rights.

The plaintiffs, including a corrections officer, a firefighter and a sanitation worker, argued the city's requirement that municipal workers be vaccinated "singled out for discriminatory treatment" people with sincere or unorthodox religious beliefs.

"The religious exemption policy was intentionally set up to make it impossible to receive a meaningful chance at a religious exemption, while attempting to sidestep the expected lawsuits about the unconstitutionality of withholding such exemptions," the lawsuit said.

Similar arguments against the policy have failed in the courts in the past.

The federal judge has since denied the group's request for a temporary restraining order upholding the vaccination mandate once again.

This decision came hours after the Supreme Court declining to hear an emergency injunction filed by a separate group of public school teachers also citing religious freedoms as an exemption from vaccination mandates.

A few dozen people showed up at City Hall on Friday morning to protest COVID mandates, most wanting New York State to drop the school mask mandate.

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The mandate, established under the de Blasio administration, applies to employees hired after August 2, 2021, who were told to be vaccinated as a condition of employment and to unvaccinated police officers, correction officers, firefighters and others who opted to forego city health benefits and are currently on leave because they're unvaccinated.

The mandate achieved a vaccination rate among municipal workers of more than 95%. A number of exceptions were approved in recent months.

"It's not about termination it's about vaccination," Adams said during an event in Bushwick.

Adams said he respected the rights of the workers to file suit to try and halt their termination, but the mayor said he would not abandon the mandate instituted by his predecessor.

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"Those who determine that they don't want to go with the obligation that was required...the courts ruled on our behalf," Adams said.

Adams said the city would conduct an assessment to see how many of the fired workers, estimated to be about 3,000, would need to be replaced.

Friday's demonstration comes one day after the indoor mask mandate in New York State expired on Thursday.

Masks no longer have to be worn inside hotels, stores, pharmacies, officers and grocery stores as long as the local government and business says it's OK.

However masks are still required at a number of places statewide, including schools, public transportation, state health care settings, nursing homes, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

New York City will maintain its citywide mandates, Key to NYC, that require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, theaters, museums, gyms and arenas.

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