State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Porzio has issued a ruling that will reward ten educators who sued the city for denying religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. According to Judge Porzio, the refusal to grant religious exemptions was unlawful and “capricious.”
“This Court sees no rational basis for not allowing unvaccinated classroom teachers in amongst an admitted population of primarily unvaccinated students,” Porzio wrote. “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. As such, each classroom teacher amongst the Panel Petitioners is entitled to a religious exemption from the Vaccine Mandate.”
Like many cities across the country, New York City issued a vaccination policy in 2021 that required all educators to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be terminated. Many educators who requested religious exemptions to this policy were denied.
Sujata Gibson, the lead attorney representing the group of educators who filed the lawsuit, celebrated the court’s ruling, describing it as offering “relief” to the teachers and setting an “important precedent for all other teachers denied religious accommodation.”
The ten educators who initiated the lawsuit will receive back pay, including salaries, benefits, and pensions, and will be reinstated in their positions. However, the court’s decision applies exclusively to the plaintiffs in this specific case and does not extend to other educators in New York City who lost their jobs for the same reasons. The plaintiffs of the case attempted to make the lawsuit a class action suit, but that request was denied by the judge.
“Although the petitioners’ overall position is that the citywide panel did not provide relief to the vast majority of initial DOE applicants, and specifically that these petitioners did seek that review, the record before this court is insufficient to make any determination as to those claims,” judge Porzio explained in his ruling.
This piece first appeared at TPUSA.