Claiming that at least 82 New York City school employees turned in fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, the city Department of Education (DOE) filed a lawsuit Tuesday to keep them suspended without pay, the New York Post reports.
According to the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit, the employees were told on April 19 that they would be placed on unpaid leave beginning April 25 "based on information that the DOE had received from an independent law-enforcement agency that their proof of COVID-19 vaccination was fraudulent."
The accused employees were told to respond to the DOE email if they didn't feel the allegations were true.
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union previously said some of its members contacted the DOE to say they received the notice in error and requested an arbitrator get involved.
On June 27, the arbitrator decided that the DOE had violated the employees' "due-process protection" and told both sides to meet Tuesday to try to hammer out an agreement, according to the court filing.
The DOE is now asking a judge to rule that the arbitrator did not have the authority to get involved in the matter.
The complaint alleges that the arbitrator's decision "will undermine the DOE's ability to ensure compliance with the DOE vaccine mandate and thereby jeopardize the health and safety of students and their families, DOE staff, and the broader community," if it isn't reversed.
The DOE is requesting an emergency and permanent injunction from the court, according to the Post.
"These employees were afforded due process," a spokesperson for the city Law Department told the news outlet in a statement. "There is no lawful basis for this arbitrator's decision, which undermines DOE's authority to enforce an important public health initiative protecting students, school staff, and the broader community."
The DOE was informed that the suspended employees are also being investigated by law enforcement, the spokesperson added.
"Unhappy with the arbitrator's decision, the DOE has now tried to appeal the arbitrator's ruling," a UFT spokesperson told the Post. "We are confident that on reviewing the record the courts will support the arbitrator's stand."
In March, Reuters reported that New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for professional athletes and performers, while leaving it in place for police officers.
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