36 FDNY EMS workers fired for failing to comply with vaccine mandate
Mayor Eric Adams said that city workers have had an "amazing response"
Chris Sommerfeldt and Shant Shahrigian
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A last-minute effort by a group of anti-vaccine municipal workers to avoid getting fired failed Friday, as Mayor Eric Adams said other vaccine-resistant employees were finally getting the jab.
A Brooklyn federal judge rejected the group’s request to temporarily bar the city from axing workers who haven’t been vaccinated. Similar suits previously flopped in court, with the latest one arguing that the rules violate workers’ “fundamental religious and constitutional rights.”
“Plaintiffs have not met their burden of demonstrating their entitlement to the extraordinary remedy of a temporary restraining order,” declared Judge Diane Gujarati.
After the Brooklyn judge’s ruling on Friday, the vaccine mandate appeared to be implemented as the city planned. The city fired 36 EMS members fired for failing to get vaccinated, according to the Local 2507, which represents Fire Department EMS workers.
Anti-vaccine public employees later Friday lost on another legal front when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor turned down a request by 14 city Department of Education employees who were terminated after their requests for religious exemptions to city vaccine requirements was denied.
“We are pleased the U.S. Supreme Court has again denied an attempt to block the mandate,” a city Law Department spokesman said. Sotomayor did not give a reason for her decision.
Adams has stood by the vaccine mandate created by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio.
“It’s not about termination. It’s about vaccination,” he told reporters. “We want people to be vaccinated. I don’t want to see the city close down again. And all we can do is continue to encourage people to get vaccinated and hopefully people get the booster shot.”
Late last month, the city sent termination warnings to nearly 4,000 employees. Adams on Friday suggested some of those workers have since gotten vaccinated, but said the exact number likely wouldn’t be known until the weekend.
“What we do know is that we have had an amazing response of from city workers and we are truly encouraged by those numbers,” he said.
Municipal workers had to show they’d gotten at least two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Friday.
The anti-vaccine suit, led by a group called New Yorkers for Religious Liberty, Inc., argues that the mandate contains “unconstitutional conditions on employment.” They’ll get another chance to make their case in the Eastern District of New York court later this month.
“These are the heroes on the front lines for the last two years, and all of a sudden, now they’re being told they can’t come to work if they want to follow their faith and practice their religion,” said the group's lawyer, Sujata Gibson.
Echoing a number of cops, plaintiffs including NYPD officer Dean Paolillo cited concerns over the use of fetal cell lines during COVID vaccine research.
“I ... could never take any medications or vaccines that have a connection to abortion in their development and/or testing as it would be a grave sin against the Lord,” Paolillo said in a sworn declaration. “I cannot use products that use aborted cell lines in either developing or testing.”
Aborted fetal cell lines, or cloned copies of cells, are commonly used in medical research.
The suit also makes iffy claims about the vaccines, arguing that that they “blunt the severity” of infection — a widely accepted fact — but don’t stop transmission to others.
“Infections with the delta variant in vaccinated persons potentially have reduced transmissibility than infections in unvaccinated persons,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated last year, noting more research was needed.
The suit faces long odds. Late Thursday, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge rejected a union coalition’s effort to block the firings. And last fall, a Staten Island judge denied a request from the city’s largest police union to prevent the mandate from going into effect.
City lawyers referenced those cases in urging Judge Gujarati to reject the vaccine opponents’ suit.
“The unions representing many of the Plaintiffs ... have already attempted to obtain the exact same relief as sought here. Each and every such attempt has failed. So too must this one,” Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana stated in a Friday filing.
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