The challengers included firefighters, public school teachers, law enforcement officers, sanitation workers, and a group called New Yorkers for Religious Liberty. They maintained that New York City’s policy compromises religious constitutional protections by requiring workers to choose between their careers or taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
The group alleged that while the city’s vaccine mandate allotted for some religious exemptions, those provisions were made under “entirely discretionary” criteria.
The case is presently making its way through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, meaning a final decision could be months away.
Sotomayor, who handles emergency matters arising from New York, appeared to dismiss the application without referring the matter to the full court. The high court has declined to weigh in on a number of vaccine-related challenges, including a lawsuit against Maine’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, several other worker challenges to New York City’s mandate, and one by a group of Indiana University students.
However, a pair of Supreme Court cases earlier this year blocked President Joe Biden‘s administration from implementing a vaccine-or-test for big business employers but allowed a vaccine mandate to remain for health workers at federally funded medical facilities.
Lower courts in the Empire State decided two cases last month that dealt a significant blow to New York City’s vaccine requirements. The most recent case saw a Staten Island Superior Court judge order 16 sanitation workers to have their jobs reinstated with back pay.
Meanwhile, the city has appealed the two lower court decisions that ruled in favor of plaintiffs who challenged the vaccine mandate.
When New York City announced the end of the private-sector mandate on Sept. 20, Mayor Eric Adams (D) told reporters ending the mandate for city workers was “not on the radar,” citing a phased approach.