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New York Court Temporarily Halts Required Flu Vaccinations for Health Care Workers

By Joanne Deschenaux  10/19/2009
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A New York court issued temporary restraining orders Oct. 16 stopping the state from enforcing—at least for now—its requirement that health care workers receive vaccinations for the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. The order requires that the parties return to court for a hearing on Oct. 30.

The regulation was challenged by three private-sector health care workers, the Public Employees Federation and three of its members, and the New York State United Teachers on behalf of three of its members. The orders were issued in the two union actions.

Those lawsuits allege that the state health department exceeded its authority by requiring the vaccinations without explicit statutory authority from the state legislature. They also claim that, in issuing the regulation, the department failed to follow the necessary procedures established by the New York State Administrative Procedure Act.

In addition, the unions claim that the regulation violates the constitutional rights of health care workers by failing to provide due process protections and an exemption for religious beliefs.

The lawsuits seek an injunction preventing the state from implementing the regulation and a declaration that the regulation is null and void.

In a statement, the health department, noting the temporary nature of the orders, said that “In two weeks, the department intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit on its merits and we are confident that the regulation will be upheld.” Further, the department asserted that “the commissioner of health and the State Hospital Review and Planning Council have clear legal authority to promulgate the mandatory regulation.”

Kenneth Brynien, president of the Public Employees Federation, said in a statement, “Our lawsuit states this regulation is an absolute violation of the separation of powers, as it is an unconstitutional exercise of the legislature’s authority. If, and only if, such a mandate were deemed necessary, it should have come from the legislature, not an administrator.”

Joanne Deschenaux is SHRM’s senior legal editor. 

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