Ten New York City teachers who were fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine must be reinstated with back pay, a New York state judge ruled last week.
State Supreme Court Judge Ralph J. Porzio held that the city’s denials of religious accommodation to certain employees were unlawful, arbitrary and capricious, according to Fox News.
The case of DiCapua v. City of New York concerned a variety of educators who sued after their requests for a religious exemption were denied.
“This Court sees no rational basis for not allowing unvaccinated classroom teachers in amongst an admitted population of primarily unvaccinated students,” Porzio wrote in his ruling.
“As such, the decision to summarily deny the classroom teachers amongst the Panel Petitioners based on an undue hardship, without any further evidence of individualized analysis, is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” he wrote.
Following that logic, Porzio ruled, “As such, each classroom teacher amongst the Panel Petitioners is entitled to a religious exemption from the Vaccine Mandate.”
Sujata Gibson, who represented the teachers, said the ruling was a major step forward.
“We’ve been fighting for this since August of 2021 for these 10 people specifically. And we won and we won big for them. They were reinstated with back pay, with no break in service, and attorneys’ fees. That’s huge,” she said in a statement to Children’s Health Defense, a not-for-profit group founded by Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“The judge’s ruling yesterday, while not everything we wanted, is a precedent-setting victory, and a watershed moment in the teachers’ fight,” Gibson said.
“The Court’s decision not only grants relief to these ten teachers, but it also sets important precedent for all other teachers denied religious accommodation,” Gibson said, according to Fox News.
The victory had its boundaries.
Individuals who did not seek a religious accommodation from the city’s vaccine mandate were not awarded their jobs back. A request to file a class action lawsuit was denied.
Gibson said that using speed bumps in the decision were not the end of the fight.
“The court’s ruling in the class certification still leaves the door open to future relief for thousands of teachers negatively affected by the vaccine requirement. We intend to file a motion of reconsideration on a narrower basis,” she said.
Michael Kane, a teacher who lost his job for refusing the vaccine, called the ruling “bittersweet.”
“While it’s an important step in the right direction, justice for only 10 of us doesn’t even scratch the surface of the injustice suffered by NYC workers as a result of this illegal mandate.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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