A New York State judge reinstated 16 fired sanitation workers who did not comply with New York City’s vaccination mandate issued in October 2021, deciding they should also get back pay.
The judge found the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene’s order requiring vaccination of city workers violated the New York Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, was arbitrary and capricious and violated the fired workers’ equal protection and due process rights.
In a ruling Monday, Judge Ralph Porzio wrote, “There is nothing in the record to support the rationality of keeping a vaccination mandate for public employees, while vacating the mandate for private sector employees or creating a carveout for certain professions, like athletes, artists and performers. This is clearly an arbitrary and capricious action because we are dealing with identical unvaccinated people being treated differently by the same administrative agency.”
Chad LaVeglia, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called the ruling, “a remarkable victory for all the hard-working men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving the public. It is also a great victory for individual rights and equality for all New Yorkers.”
A spokesman with the law department released the following statement to CNN saying, “The city strongly disagrees with this ruling as the mandate is firmly grounded in law and is critical to New Yorkers’ public health. We have already filed an appeal. In the meantime, the mandate remains in place as this ruling pertains solely to the individual petitioners in this case. We continue to review the court’s decision, which conflicts with numerous other rulings already upholding the mandate.”
In his order, Judge Porzio also found the health commissioners’ order on December 13, 2021, as well as the mayor’s Executive Order 62, to be “arbitrary and capricious.”
“We have learned through the course of the pandemic that the vaccine against Covid-19 is not absolute. Breakthrough cases occur, even for those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 is not absolute. President Joseph Biden has said that the pandemic is over. The State of New York ended the Covid-19 state of emergency over a month ago,” Judge Porzio wrote.
CNN has reached out to the mayor’s office and the NYC sanitation department for comment on Judge Porzio’s ruling.
CNN’s Mark Morales contributed to this report.