NEW YORK (AP) — New York City officials are appealing a judge's ruling that they lacked the legal authority to fire members of the city’s largest police union for violating a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
State Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank in Manhattan ruled Friday that the city health department's mandate couldn’t be used to fire or put on leave members of the Police Benevolent Association.
Frank said it was “undisputed” that city officials could issue vaccine mandates. But the judge said officials overstepped their authority by unilaterally creating a new condition of employment, as opposed to going through collective bargaining.
Frank ordered the reinstatement of union members who were “wrongfully” terminated or put on unpaid leave for refusing to get vaccinated. The city immediately filed a notice of appeal, freezing the judge's decision until the appeal is heard.
“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,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to protect those rights.”
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said the ruling “is at odds with every other court decision upholding the mandate as a condition of employment.”
Neither the city nor the union provided information about how many union members have been been placed on leave or fired over the mandate.
The decision comes days after Mayor Eric Adams announced the city was lifting its vaccine mandate for private sector on Nov. 1.