October 1 (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday refused to block New York City’s demand that its teachers and public school employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 .
Sotomayor has denied a challenge by four teachers and teaching assistants who sought to suspend the implementation of the vaccination mandate as their lawsuit challenging the policy continues in lower courts. Employees of the public school system were ordered to get vaccinated before 5:00 p.m. EDT (9:00 p.m. GMT) on Friday or face unpaid leave until September 2022.
Some governments and private employers have adopted vaccination mandates to guard against the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace as they attempt to return to some degree of normalcy after the disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic that have started last year. Such warrants became a flashpoint in the United States, with opponents including those in New York saying their constitutional rights were being violated.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a Democrat, announced on August 23 that all 148,000 staff in America’s largest school district would be required to submit proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine . After a lower court temporarily blocked the measure – an order since lifted – the deadline was pushed back to October 1.
About 1 million students attend public schools in the city.
Sotomayor denied the emergency request without providing an explanation or remitting the case to the entire nine-member tribunal. Her decision mirrors that of Judge Amy Coney Barrett in August, refusing an offer from Indiana University students to block that school’s vaccination mandate.
Sotomayor handled the case for the Supreme Court because she is the judge responsible for handling emergency claims arising from cases in states in an area that includes New York.
De Blasio said in a TV interview on Friday that 90% of employees in the city’s education department were already vaccinated with at least one dose, including 93% of teachers and 98% of school principals.
New York teachers filed a class action lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court last month, claiming that the vaccine’s mandate violates their due process rights and equal protection under the law under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The tenure interferes with their freedom to practice their chosen profession and discriminates against them because other city workers can opt out by taking weekly COVID-19 tests, teachers said.
One of the complainants, Rachel Maniscalco, who teaches in the Staten Island Borough, has expressed concern about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, while the other complainants argue they should be exempted because they have antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection.
A federal judge and the Manhattan-based 2nd United States Court of Appeals rejected the teachers’ proposal to suspend the term, resulting in their appeal to the Supreme Court.
Defending the warrant in a lower court, the city noted that courts have long held that vaccination warrants do not violate constitutional rights.
“Frankly speaking, plaintiffs do not have the right to teach children without being vaccinated against a dangerous infectious disease,” city lawyers said.
Report by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.