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City of Chicago forced to rehire, pay lost wages to workers fired for refusing COVID vaccine mandate

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)

A Chicago judge recently ordered the city to rehire and pay lost wages to workers who were fired for refusing to comply with Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot's 2021 COVID vaccination mandate.

On April 19, administrative law Judge Anna Hamburg-Gal ruled that Chicago violated the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act by failing and refusing to bargain in good faith over COVID vaccine requirements for city workers.

The city was ordered to "make whole" unionized workers who refused the mandate and lost pay and benefits. The affected employees will also receive 7% annual interest on lost wages.

The order applies to city workers, including carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, machinists, and operating engineers, represented by trade unions or by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The judge's ruling does not affect police officers. However, the Fraternal Order of Police has its own pending case before the state board.

Lightfoot stated in 2022 that 16 police officers were placed on no-pay status after failing to abide by the vaccine mandate.

In response to the judge's recent ruling, AFSCME spokesperson Anders Lindall told the Chicago Sun-Times, "We think it's a strong decision and favorable for worker rights generally."

"At issue in this case is whether an employer has an obligation to bargain over significant changes to terms and conditions of employment," Lindall added.

A Chicago Federation of Labor spokesperson stated that the judge's order "defends the rights of workers to have a say in their workplace through collective bargaining."

The CFL said it is "hopeful that the full board will uphold the decision of the [judge] and the City will not seek to file exceptions."

Lightfoot announced in 2021 that all city employees must be fully vaccinated by October and warned that those who refused would face "consequences."

"Employees who fail to report their vaccination status by October 15, 2021, will be placed in a non-disciplinary, no pay status," the city stated in an October 2021 press release.

According to Hamburg-Gal's ruling, "multiple" city employees were placed on non-paid leave for missing the October deadline, and some were terminated.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a spokesperson for the mayor's office said, "The record before the Administrative Law Judge tells a completely different story. Yesterday's ruling was an erroneous decision that does not follow the law, facts nor importantly the science. We are currently reviewing the ruling and evaluating next steps."

Lightfoot, the first Chicago mayor to lose a re-election bid in 40 years, will be replaced by Democrat Brandon Johnson on May 15.

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