BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – After refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, court workers in New York are starting to get letters of termination.
The fired workers are now suing the New York State Unified Court System (NYS UCS), challenging the vaccine mandate. They want their jobs back, but they don’t want to get vaccinated.
“I really feel strongly that I will not be getting this vaccination under any circumstances…so I’ll need to find another job,” asserted NYS UCS court reporter, Jamie Hawley,
New York court employees had until Monday, April 4th, to get vaccinated, or face getting fired. Those employees are officially getting their letters of termination Tuesday.
“I shouldn’t be forced to put anything in my body that I’m not comfortable with…and now I’m going to be having a termination date of April 7th,” said Marjorie Coons, Senior Court Office Assistant at NYS UCS.
In a letter distributed by the New York Office of Court Administration in March, 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 requests for medical or religious exemptions on, or after, the notice would not be considered.
“I put in for a religious exemption and I was just flat out denied,” said Hawley.
The lawsuit, filed in Steuben County, claims that the court system’s vaccine mandate violates the first amendment rights of workers, by not allowing for religious exemptions.
“It’s against my beliefs to get it… I’ve prayed about it, and I really feel strongly that I will not be getting this vaccination,” said Hawley. When asked about her religious beliefs she said, “It’s very difficult to explain because it’s an internal feeling…I pray, and then I just let God lead.”
The lawsuit also states that the mandate fails to provide an exemption for employees who have “natural immunity” after being infected by the virus.
“I had covid and I got the natural immunity, and my concern was that getting the vaccination would hinder my natural immunity,” said Hawley.
Antibodies from COVID-19 infection do provide immunity, however, medical experts say that this immunity wanes over time and does not last forever. Moreover, there have been many instances of people contracting COVID more than once and anyone who is infected can pass along the virus to coworkers.
Currently, evidence from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the vaccine as the best protection against getting the virus, whether you have already had the virus or not.
In a statement to 18 News, the NYS UCS said it will not be “discussing pending litigation” and that its “position will be made apparent in court filings.”
Oral arguments were made Monday night, and so far, the judge has not made any indication of when the ruling will be.
“The hope is that he will say that the court system did not have the right to terminate these people and allow them to go back to work,” said Cory Hogan, the attorney representing the petitioners.
The state has asked that the case be dismissed, and Hogan has confirmed they will be appealing if that happens.