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September 23, 2022, 5:27 PM

Manhattan judge says NYC vaccine mandate can’t be enforced against NYPD union members

By Chris Sommerfeldt and Emma Seiwell

A Manhattan judge on Friday barred enforcement of New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate against members of the city’s largest police union.

The city vowed an immediate appeal of the ruling by Supreme Court Judge Lyle E. Frank, who said the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s mandate couldn’t be used to fire or put on leave members of the Police Benevolent Association.

In his ruling, Frank wrote that the city’s vaccine mandate is “invalid to the extent it has been used to impose a new condition of employment to current PBA members.”

Frank ordered the reinstatement to the NYPD of any PBA member who was “wrongfully terminated” or put on unpaid leave for refusing to get vaccinated.

“This decision confirms what we have said from the start: the vaccine mandate was an improper infringement on our members’ right to make personal medical decisions in consultation with their own health care professionals,” said Police Benevolent Association president Patrick J. Lynch.

The union said the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene “exceeded” its legal authority when ordering the mandate, which in its view lacked a “rational basis.”

City Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said Frank’s order “is at odds with every other court decision upholding the mandate as a condition of employment.”

In a joint statement Friday, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents rank-and-file firefighters, and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, which represents FDNY commanders, praised Frank as a “common sense judge,” and said they would ask the department to reinstate their members fired or suspend because they refused COVID-19 vaccines.

Frank’s decision follows Mayor Adams’ announcement Tuesday that the city was lifting its vaccine mandate for private sector workers and for high school students participating in sports and other extracurricular activities.

But Adams left alone the mandate for city workers, including police and firefighters.

Other public employee groups have lost court bids to stop enforcement of the vaccine mandate.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected efforts by a group of teachers to seek religious exemptions to the mandate. The Supreme Court last December denied a similar challenge to the mandate by health care workers.