New York courts to fire 103 employees over lack of COVID vaccine

A view of the New York State Court of Appeals building is seen in Albany
A view of the New York State Court of Appeals building is seen in Albany, New York October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Pennink
  • New York courts to fire 103 employees for lack of vaccine proof
  • Four judges have not complied with vaccine mandate

The New York state court system on Wednesday said it will fire 103 employees for not submitting proof they were vaccinated against COVID-19, and a judge on the state's top court faces being referred to a disciplinary commission and removed from the bench.

The announcement came two days after a deadline set by the New York Office of Court Administration passed for 156 employees and four judges to come into compliance with the court system's vaccine mandate, which it said could result in terminations.

Lucian Chalfen, a court spokesperson, said of the 156 employees who were notified last month that they were deemed "unfit for service" for not complying, 103 will be sent termination letters on Thursday.

One employee resigned and 11 said they would retire, while the remaining chose to comply, Chalfen said. The New York courts employ more than 15,000 staff members and 3,000 judges.

Four judges meanwhile remain in non-compliance, including two in New York City, and they will remain barred from entering any court facility and must work from home, Chalfen said.

While he declined to name the judges, New York media have widely reported that one is Jenny Rivera, an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals, the state's top court.

Rivera, who was appointed to the court by former Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013, has been appearing at hearings by video rather than sitting alongside her colleagues in their Albany courtroom.

The Office of Court Administration cannot fire the judges but can refer them to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which can remove them.

"We had made it clear from the outset that any Judge not in and continuing not to be in compliance subjects themselves to a referral to the Commission on Judicial Conduct for their determination," Chalfen said in a statement.

Rivera's chambers did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Court of Appeals declined to comment.

Unions representing court employees have balked at the vaccine mandate, arguing it marked a change in the conditions of employment that the court system was required to negotiate with them over. The state's Public Employment Relations Board began hearing the unions' case on Wednesday.

Patrick Mullen, the president of New York State Supreme Court Officers Association, said it looked forward to "ultimately proving our case that the Office of Court Administration has unilaterally acted without negotiation."

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New York courts threaten to fire 150-plus employees over lack of vaccine

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at