NYC teachers win jobs back with backpay after refusing COVID-19 vaccine

In a recent decision, a New York City arbitrator has ordered the city to rehire four teachers who were fired for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccination and to provide them with back pay. The teachers were located at two different schools, The Bronx Global Learning Institute and the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice.


The decision was based on two factors. The first factor considered was the teachers’ religious and philosophical objections to taking a vaccine. The second factor was the safety of the students, faculty, and staff in light of the pandemic and the city’s Connected Community Pledge requiring students and staff to be immunized against the disease.

The arbitrator found that the teachers’ First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free exercise of conscience outweighed the city’s policy requiring educators to get vaccinated.

The arbitrator also stated that while the teachers may have misconstrued the city policy as an absolute requirement, their misunderstanding of the policy was reasonable. In light of this, the arbitrator determined that firing the teachers was an overly-harsh punishment and that the school system did not sufficiently take into account the threat of the virus and the protections needed for the safety of the students, faculty, and staff. The arbitrator concluded that the teachers deserved reinstatement and backpay.

This decision is an important victory for the teachers, who have stood by their religious and philosophical beliefs in the face of a difficult challenge. It also serves to remind school systems that they should take into account individual circumstances when enforcing their policies, and that there are limits to how harshly they punish employees for violations.

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