The New York Office of Court Administration is sending termination notices today to 103 employees who have failed to comply with the Unified Court System’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
The notices are going out to non-judge court employees “at all levels and job titles,” state court system spokesperson Lucien Chaflen says.
Roughly half the affected individuals are in the New York City area with the rest spread across upstate counties including the eight-county 7th Judicial District, he adds. The district covers Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Livingston, Seneca, Yates, Cayuga and Steuben counties.
Chaflen says court workers getting pink slips were repeatedly warned over the past six months that failure to comply with the court system’s July 2021 vaccine mandate could result in their termination. Citing rules covering confidentiality in personnel matters, he declined to specifically identify any individuals affected by the OCA termination notices or give county-by-county details.
Four judges who have failed to comply with the court system’s July 2021 vaccine mandate are also potentially affected. Court rules do not allow for the OCA to directly oust the judges, but the non-compliant judges have been sent written notices. The OCA can refer their cases for consideration by the state’s judicial ethics commission, which can remove judges.
The four non-compliant judges include a member of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, Chaflen says.
The legal publication Law360 previously identified the Court of Appeals judge as Jenny Rivera.
According to Chaflen, none of the non-compliant judges are in the 7th Judicial District. He says one is in the 8th Judicial District, which spans Erie, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Allegany counties.
In January, five court reporters sued the New York court system in the federal Northern District of New York seeking to be excused from the vaccine mandate on grounds of “sincere religious beliefs,” but they dropped the action last month after a federal judge turned down their bid for a preliminary injunction.
The OCA’s termination notices are going out as a state Supreme Court judge considers a more recent challenge to the court system’s vaccine mandate.
Filed March 8 in Steuben County by seven court workers and a group called NYS Court Employees for Medical Freedom Inc., the lawsuit cites “the ineffectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing infections” as cause to cancel the July 2021 mandate and maintains that “natural immunity” is preferable to vaccination. Many persons, including the petitioners, chose not to get vaccinated due to the “unsafe accelerated timeline of the COVID-19 vaccine development,” the court action states.
After hearing oral arguments in the case Monday, state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Nasca indicated, in a filing he submitted Wednesday as dismissal notices were slated to go out, that he would not consider a letter submitted on Tuesday by the plaintiffs’ lawyer. Nasca also said that he would not entertain the plaintiffs’ requests for a preliminary injunction and dismissal of the case but would continue to reserve judgment on the complaint.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.
I’m opposed to mandatory vaccinations but I believe that a employer can mandate a FDA approved vaccine(even the State Court system is a employer). Its unfortunate that people’s religious concerns are being dismissed here. When the Governor mandated this earlier, she said that she discussed it with “religious leaders” and concluded that there was no religious exception . (I’m not sure what qualifies the Governor to conclude this? Is she also the Prefect of religion as well as the Governor?) I would also ask, given the case backlogs, the disaster of no cash bail and all the rest of the issues before the Courts, as well as the labor shortage, is this really the right time to dismiss experienced members of your work force? With the virus on the wane, this seems more ideological than workplace safety….