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New York county court reinstates NYC employees fired for being unvaccinated, rules they're entitled to back pay

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Crowds are gathered at the Madison Square Park and take streets during "Freedom Rally" to protest vaccination mandate against Covid-19 in New York City, Sept. 4, 2021. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A New York court on Monday ordered the reinstatement of New York City employees fired for being unvaccinated and also ruled they are entitled to back pay.

Following the court's ruling, an appeal was filed Tuesday with state's appellate division.

What are the details?

The court granted a petition against Democrat New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other city officials and departments, saying the citywide mandate requiring public employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of their employment — while later exempting athletes and performers — is "arbitrary and capricious."

The mayor in March said the exemption was needed because New York City — heavily reliant on tourism — "has to function," the New York Post reported.

“Being healthy is not just about being physically healthy, but being economically healthy,” Adams also said, according to the Post.

“We’re leading the entire country, for the most part, in unemployment,” he added, according to the paper. “We’re seeing unbelievable vacancies in our business district.”

The city's vaccine mandate — which resulted in more than 1,400 employees getting fired — still applies to municipal and other private-sector workers, and Adams said he wasn't planning on rehiring them, the Post added.

The decision made many folks furious, but now Adams may be forced to bring them back on the job.

What else does the court's judgment say?

The court said employees terminated for remaining unvaccinated are "reinstated to their full employment status," effective Oct. 25 at 6 a.m. It added that they're "entitled to back pay in salary from the date of termination" and can submit a "proposed judgment" for back pay on or before Nov. 10.

The court added in its conclusion that the city's health commissioner "cannot create a new condition of employment for city employees" and "cannot prohibit an employee from reporting to work" and "cannot terminate employees."

"The vaccination mandate for city employees was not just about safety and public health; it was about compliance," the decision read. "If it was about safety and public health, unvaccinated workers would have been placed on leave the moment the order was issued. If it was about safety and public health, the health commissioner would have issued city-wide mandates for vaccination for all residents. In a city with a nearly 80% vaccination rate, we shouldn't be penalizing the people who showed up to work, at great risk to themselves and their families, while we were locked down."

It added, "If it was about safety and public health, no one would be exempt. It is time for the city of New York to do what is right and what is just."

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