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New York City mayor lifts vaccine mandate for city workers

Under Eric Adams' plan, workers who were fired for refusing to get the shot will have to reapply for their jobs.

Published: February 7, 2023 1:50pm

Updated: February 7, 2023 3:18pm

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is lifting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, but will require employees who were fired for refusing to get the shot to reapply for their jobs.

In a statement, Adams said with more than 96% of New York City workers fully vaccinated, the city will make vaccination optional for current and prospective city workers beginning Friday. The move is still contingent on approval by the city's Board of Health, which meets Thursday.

Still, Adams said the more than 1,750 city workers who were fired for refusing to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination will have to reapply for jobs.

"They will be able to apply for positions with their former agencies through existing city rules and regulations and hiring processes," he said.

Adams defended the divisive vaccine mandate for city workers, saying it has "served its purpose, driving rates of vaccination up among the city’s workforce during a critical period in the pandemic."

“From our health care frontline workers and first responders who saved lives, to the city employees who kept our streets clean, our schools open, and our streets safe, we owe city workers a debt of gratitude for their service during New York City’s darkest days," he said.

During the pandemic New York City imposed some of the strictest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the country, enforcing requirements for both public and private sector workers.

More than 1,750 city workers were fired for refusing to get vaccinated, including 36 members of the New York City Police Department and more than 950 public school employees.

Several unions sued the city over the mandate, and in October Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio issued a ruling that the city's policy was enacted "illegally" and workers who were fired for refusing to comply must be "immediately reinstated" with back pay. But the city appealed the judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, the Adams administration lifted a similar vaccine mandate for private sector employees and professional athletes in November.

In response to Adam's decision to drop the mandate, unions representing police officers, firefighters and other city workers who lost their jobs vowed they would take the city to court again to get back pay and benefits they lost.

New York City Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said the lifting of the city's vaccine mandate is "the beginning of righting a wrong."

"Now in a crime weary city that needs detectives, our union members must be returned to their earned rank in the unit they were assigned to before being forced out and receive all owed back pay," he said in statement.

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch welcomed the lifting of the vaccine mandate, but called on the city to ensure police officers "who were fired or had their employment unfairly impacted are reinstated, with back pay and without condition."

"We are glad that the city has decided to stop fighting against our court victory overturning this unjust and illogical mandate," he said in a statement. "However, the job is only half done."

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