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Mayor Adams announces end to COVID vaccine mandate for city workers, but fired employees will not get back pay

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Mayor Adams drops COVID vaccine mandate 03:01

NEW YORK -- Mayor Eric Adams announced New York City's COVID vaccine mandate for city workers will be lifted this week. But he opened up another can of worms too. 

The nearly 2,000 public employees fired for refusing to get the shot won't automatically get their jobs back. 

Adams said the 1,780 workers fired for refusing to submit proof of vaccination will have to reapply for positions with their former agencies.

These workers include police officers, firefighters, teachers and other city employees. If they are rehired, they will not be compensated for time on the bench.

The unions are vowing to sue. 

"We're suing to have back pay for all the members that were put on leave without pay. One of the litigations is that it was illegal. It was a punishment and they weren't given due process," said James McCarthy, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. 

Just hours after the mayor lifted the vaccine mandate, unions representing police officers, firefighters and other city workers who lost their jobs said they would take the city to court and insisted they get back pay for time lost. 

Adams' announcement, which also ended the vaccine mandate for non-public school, early childhood and day care staff, makes getting the COVID shots optional for current and prospective employees. 

"With more than 96 percent of city workers and more than 80 percent of New Yorkers having received their primary COVID-19 series and more tools readily available to keep us healthy, this is the right moment for this decision," Adams said in a statement. 

"I'm just one person, and I'm one of many people, one of many women, one of many people of color that have been affected by this mandate," said Sophy Medina, a firefighter. "It's preposterous and I definitely never want to see this again. So for me this is a big win but it's not the end of the fight and I personally won't stop fighting until everybody gets the opportunity to get their jobs back and that we have it in writing that this can never happen to us again." 

The issue has been a political hot potato even since Adams took office. Responding to pressure to get the city economy up and running, he made the vaccine optional for professional athletes and those working for private employers.

The unions sued, saying public employees were unfairly singled out. Labor lawyer Jon Bell told CBS2 they may have a hard time getting back pay. He believes the mayor acted within the law. 

"I recognize that it's unfair, and it seems that way. But the city of New York is an employer just like a private-sector employer and their laws don't actually have to make sense," said Bell. 

The New York City Council's Common-Sense Council praised the decision, saying it rights the wrongs of the de Blasio administration's "misguided pandemic policies." 

The mandate will officially be lifted Friday. 


Mandate officially lifted

COVID vaccine mandate ends for NYC workers 02:18

The COVID vaccine mandate for New York City workers came to an end Friday. 

Mayor Eric Adams says getting the shot is now optional, with 96% of the city workforce already vaccinated.

Nearly 2,000 municipal workers lost their jobs because of the mandate.  

Now, the police and firefighters unions want members who refused to get vaccinated to return to work.

CLICK HERE for the full story.

By CBS New York Team

What it means for pandemic response

NYC ending COVID vaccine mandate: What it means 02:56

What message does this send as we leave the emergency phase of the pandemic? Dr. Martine Hackett, professor of public health at Hofstra University, spoke with us to explain.   

By CBS New York Team

Detectives union reacts

"The DEA has been fighting for the medical rights of Detectives since the start of the unjust vaccine mandate. City Hall lifting the mandate is the beginning of righting a wrong. Now in a crime weary city that needs detectives, our union members must be returned to their earned rank in the unit they were assigned to before being forced out and receive all owed back pay," said Detectives Endowmen Association President Paul DiGiacomo. 

By CBS New York Team

Police union responds

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch released the following statement after Monday's announcement: 

"We are glad that the City has decided to stop fighting against our court victory overturning this unjust and illogical mandate. However, the job is only half done. We call on the City to ensure that our members who were fired or had their employment unfairly impacted are reinstated, with back pay and without condition." 

By CBS New York Team

Change for schools too

Monday's announcement said the city will no longer require proof of vaccination for Department of Education buildings, as well as nonpublic school, early child care and day care staff.

"This will allow students' families and loved ones to attend school activities, celebrations, and events," the statement read.

By CBS New York Team

Vaccine mandate controversy

The vaccine mandate, which took effect just before former Mayor Bill de Blasio left office, led to approximately 1,780 city workers losing their jobs. 

Adams' release says while those workers "will not be able to automatically return to their previous positions, they will be able to apply for positions with their former agencies through existing city rules and regulations and hiring processes."

The city lifted a similar vaccine mandate for private sector employees last September.

CLICK HERE for more coverage.

By CBS New York Team

Mayor's full statement

Mayor Eric Adams released the following statement Monday:

"City workers stepped up tremendously throughout the pandemic. From our health care frontline workers and first responders who saved lives, to the city employees who kept our streets clean, our schools open, and our streets safe, we owe city workers a debt of gratitude for their service during New York City's darkest days. With more than 96 percent of city workers and more than 80 percent of New Yorkers having received their primary COVID-19 series and more tools readily available to keep us healthy, this is the right moment for this decision. I continue to urge every New Yorker to get vaccinated, get boosted, and take the necessary steps to protect themselves and those around them from COVID-19."  

By CBS New York Team
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