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

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A man holds up the American flag as protestors demonstrate against mandates for the vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as they rally outside the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York, U.S., January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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  • New York court administrators want proof of vaccines by April or employees will be fired
  • Four judges have not complied with vaccine mandate

(Reuters) - The New York state court system has notified more than 150 employees that they face being fired unless they submit proof by early April that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, court officials said on Tuesday.

In a letter distributed by the New York Office of Court Administration on Monday, employees were notified that they had been deemed "unfit for service" for failing to comply with the court system's vaccine mandate.

The letter stated that unless employees submit proof of receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the close of business on April 4, they will be terminated. The New York courts employ more than 15,000 staff members and 3,000 judges.

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Requests for medical or religious exemptions will be treated as too late and will not be considered, the letter said, and the employees are barred from entering any court facility until they submit proof of receiving a shot.

Lucian Chalfen, a court spokesperson, said 156 court employees were notified they were in violation of the vaccine mandate, which Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced in August and took effect in September. Four judges are also in violation of the mandate, he said, but declined to name them.

The New York Daily News reported those judges include Court of Appeals Judge Jenny Rivera, who sits on the state's top court. The Office of Court Administration cannot fire the judges but can refer them to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Rivera did not respond to a request for comment.

Unions representing court employees across the state 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 will hear arguments on the unions' challenge on April 5, a day after the vaccine deadline.

Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association in an email blasted the court system's actions and argued DiFiore should be removed from office.

"This is another example of the ruthless, corrupt and unethical treatment of court employees and judges," he wrote.

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.