Sotomayor Declines to Block NYC Vaccination Mandate

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. October 5, 2021
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the U.S. Supreme Court

​On Oct. 1, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to block New York City's vaccination mandate against COVID-19 for all city Department of Education employees. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

No Testing Option

In August, New York City officials issued an order requiring Department of Education staff who work in person in a school setting or building to submit proof of at least one dose of vaccination against COVID-19. The lawyers in the case argued that rather than letting teachers opt out of the vaccine mandate through weekly testing, the city's mandate "forces unvaccinated public-school employees to go on unpaid leave for nearly a year." A federal district court declined to block the mandate. A federal appeals court on Sept. 27 ruled in New York City's favor on the vaccine mandate.

(CNN) and (SHRM Online)

Sotomayor Rejected Teachers' Petition

In a 12-page petition to Sotomayor, attorneys argued that the vaccine mandate violated teachers' rights to due process and equal protection. Four city teachers who the attorneys represented asked Sotomayor to intervene. On Oct. 1, she declined, clearing the way for the city to begin enforcement on Oct. 4.

(Deadline)

Thousands Affected

New York City's 150,000 school employees had until 5 p.m. Oct. 1 to show proof of vaccination or to obtain a religious or medical exemption. If they did not, the city could remove them from the payrolls. In denying the petition, Sotomayor did not refer the issue to the full court or ask for a response from New York City—a sign the court didn't believe the challenge was compelling.

(The Washington Post)

Most City Education Employees Vaccinated

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said Oct. 4 that 95 percent of the city's education department employees had received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 96 percent of teachers and 99 percent of principals. One of the plaintiffs, a teacher, expressed concern about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. The other plaintiffs contended they should be exempt because they have antibodies from a prior COVID-19 infection.

(New York Post) and (Reuters)

No Exception Expected for Those with 'Natural Immunity'

The Biden administration's expected vaccine-or-testing mandate for employers with at least 100 employees won't likely create an exception for those with "natural immunity"—employees who have had previous infections—legal experts say.

(SHRM Online)

Indiana University's Policy Upheld

In August, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of Indiana University's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees and students, leaving in place the rulings of lower courts in favor of the university's requirements. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied students' challenge of the requirements.

(SHRM Online)

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Asking Vaccination Status

The Department of Health & Human Services has clarified the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not prohibit an employer from requesting an employee’s vaccination status as part of the terms and conditions of employment.

The Department of Health & Human Services has clarified the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not prohibit an employer from requesting an employee’s vaccination status as part of the terms and conditions of employment.

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