Court employees who were let go for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine must be rehired and given back pay, according to a decision by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board.
According to the board’s judgment from February 24, the Unified Court System must “stop and desist” from enforcing any regulations requiring frequent COVID testing or vaccinations for all non-judicial personnel.
Court employees “who lost accrued leave, income, or employment” must be made “whole,” the board said. The back pay for the non-judicial personnel will include interest calculated “at the maximum legal rate.”
Administrative Law Judge Mariam Manichaikul found in the PERB decision that the unions and the court officials “had an obligation to negotiate” the requirements for immunization and testing.
Manichaikul claimed that the UCS did not meet “the requirements under which an employer is allowed to take unilateral action in an emergency circumstance” since it did not engage in negotiations before to passing such an order and did not show a “genuine intention to negotiate thereafter.”
Manichaikul concluded that “UCS unilaterally enacted broad processes that implicate many employment conditions and terms, including leave time, remuneration, discipline, job security, and medical privacy, all of which have to be bargained”.
Between August and December 2021, the UCS held negotiations with the unions, but no deal was reached.
Manichaikul claimed that the Public Employees Fair Employment Act had been broken by UCS’ decision to end negotiations over the Policies unilaterally while no agreements had been reached and no stalemate had been declared.
According to Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association, at least 25 court employees are impacted by the board’s decision.
According to Quirk, the order, which was imposed by the former state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, resulted in 200 employees being fired, quitting their jobs, or retiring. The New York State Court Officers Association was one of ten unions that opposed the mandates.
Following an ethics probe into a confrontation with Quirk in public, DiFiore resigned in July.
Despite his support for immunizations, Quirk claimed that the mandate violated people’s rights. The judge described the result as a “landmark decision.”
“The freedom of choice of a person cannot be violated. We are residents of America, not Russia “Quirk rebutted.
Court authorities “are reviewing the verdict,” according to UCS spokesperson Lucian Chalfen, to decide whether to file an appeal.
A representative for Mayor Eric Adams’ (D) office underlined that other city employees would not be affected by the board’s decision.
The spokeswoman said that “decisions on the city’s mandate clearly found that this kind of relief was neither required nor warranted.”