LIEB BLOG

Legal Media Analysts

Showing posts with label #theliebcast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #theliebcast. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

NYC Permitted to Require Vaccinations of School Employees by Second Circuit Court of Appeals

 According to the Second Circuit:

This Court entered a temporary injunction in the above-captioned case on Friday, September 24, 2021 for administrative purposes pending decision by a three-judge panel. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the September 24 injunction is DISSOLVED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion for an injunction pending appeal is DENIED.


That said, not getting vaccinated does not equal automatic termination


As the City explained in their opposition to the injunction, "even employees who object to vaccination... can elect to stay home and retain their positions while being placed on unpaid leave with healthcare until early September 2022... And even if plaintiffs decline the extended leave option, the earliest any steps would be taken to terminate their employment would occur in December 2021." 


So, "employees who fail to submit proof of having received one dose of vaccination by September 27, 2021, are to be placed on unpaid leave with health insurance the following day. [internal citation] But an employee who submits proof of vaccination before November 30, 2021, will be able to return to work within a week. [internal citation] And an employee who submits proof of vaccination thereafter, but before September 5, 2022, will be able to return to work within two weeks." 


As to accommodations, the City is granting accommodations "for a religious or medical" needs. However, an underlying arbitration on the matter set "an alternative to any statutory reasonable accommodation process... for the 2021-2022 school year" where the deadline for "any requests to be considered as part of this process... [was] no later than Monday, September 20, 2021, by 5:00 p.m." Therefore, any school employee who has not yet applied for an accommodation, CANNOT get one. 


The City's opposition summed this entire situation up nicely where it stated, "Put bluntly, plaintiffs do not have a substantive due process right to teach children without being vaccinated against a dangerous infectious disease."








Friday, September 17, 2021

Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs are Undermined by Social Media Posts About Politics

If you want to avoid a workplace vaccine mandate, be very careful what you post on social media about politics and vaccines.


According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Questions and Answers: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace, "[s]ocial, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not “religious” beliefs protected by Title VII." This is cited in the EEOC Compliance Manual § 12–I(A)(1).


Instead, per the EEOC, a religious belief concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death."


To qualify for a vaccine exemption, you need a religious or medical reason, not a political one. 


In fact, employers are already combing the internet to confirm whether your claimed religious belief is insincere and merely a manifestation of your politics. Taking this a step further, if you sue your employer for failing-to-accommodate your religious beliefs, be warned that your social media posts are fair game and are a gold mine for a good trial lawyer who will tear you apart on the stand. 


As background, the underpinnings of the EEOC's position stems from the United States Supreme Court, which first set the test for a sincerely held religious belief in U.S. v. Seeger, when conscientious-objectors sought accommodations from service in the armed forces (a/k/a, draft exemptions). Per the Supreme Court, the test is "whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption." This test was adopted to the employment discrimination context by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Protos v. Volkswagen of America, Inc. 


Back to you. An employer can and should challenge whether you sincerely hold your espoused religious belief before granting you an accommodation from its rules and policies, like a vaccine mandate. 


As an illustration of what you are looking at in such a challenge, see the case of Sidelinger v. Harbor Creek School Distr., where an employee sought a religious exemption from his employer's "requirement of wearing an identification badge" because of his claims that wearing a badge evoked the "sins of pride and hypocrisy contrary to his religious belief... [as] an old-fashioned, very conservative Roman Catholic." In the case, the District Court made clear that while it would not question the truth of the belief, it would certainly question whether the employee truly held that belief. Further, the Court emphasized that it is an employee's burden "to show that he holds a sincere religious belief in conflict with his employer's requirements." Finally, the Court explained that an employee's sincerity and credibility are the basis for a factbinder's assessment, which includes internet posts. By the way, the Court found that the employee did NOT qualify for a religious accommodation. 


Are your claimed religious objections to the COVID vaccine sincere or BS political crap? 





Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Vaccine Requirement for NYC Teachers Temporarily Restrained

The New York State Supreme Court (lowest level court with jurisdiction) issued a temporary restraining order until the sooner of a hearing or 9/22/21 concerning New York City's vaccine mandate for public education employees who instead argue for a Vax-Or-Test policy. 


To see the arguments yourself, in The New York City Municipal Labor Committee et al vs. The City of New York et al, click here


Specifically, the Order, at issue, "requires [vaccines for] all DOE staff, City employees, and contractors who 'work in person in a DOE school setting or DOE building'; and '[a]ll employees of any school serving students up to grade 12 and any UPK-3 or UPK-4 program that is located in a DOE building who work in-person, and all contractors hired by such schools or programs to work in-person' to – no later than September 27, 2021"


The teachers union makes three arguments against the Order, as follows:

  • "[B]odily integrity and the right to refuse medical treatment;"
  • A violation of "due process rights" because it prevents "permanently-appointed DOE and City employees declining vaccination from engaging in their employment;" and 
  • It "fails to provide required exceptions for those with medical contraindications or sincerely-held religious objections". 


The best argument is clearly the third because "DOE has advised that it will not allow those with medical or religious exceptions – should those be accepted – to continue working in person under a strict testing regimen, or remotely with those students receiving remote instructions. Nor is it clear at this stage how those who refuse vaccination will be treated as to leaves, benefits, and other statutory rights." 


While DOE may be able to refuse a given accommodation request that results in an employee working in a building, accommodations must be decided on a case-by-case basis, under binding law, and therefore, such a blanket policy is legally problematic. 


As we've been suggesting from the outset, NYC Government should negotiate with the Union as to appropriate accommodations. Think about it like a class action of the cooperative dialogue (required mediation following an accommodation request under NYC employment discrimination law).


Otherwise, NYC Government will continuously find itself engaging in individualized cooperative dialogues with each employee that requests an accommodation. That is a financially infeasible result for NYC plus it will cause many teachers to bring suit following each cooperative dialogue. All of this can and should be amicably resolved through advance negotiations by giving the Unions a seat at the table.


 




Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Vaccines vs. Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs - First Round Goes to Religion

The Federal Court for the Northern District of New York has enjoined vaccine mandates based upon sincerely held religious beliefs by way of issuing a Temporary Restraining Order in the case of Dr. A v. Hochul.  


Here is how the plaintiffs' argued that the vaccine violate their sincerely held religious beliefs - "vaccines [] were tested, developed or produced with fetal cells line derived from procured abortions." According to the plaintiffs:

 Johnson & Johnson/Janssen: Fetal cell cultures are used to produce and manufacture the J&J COVID-19 vaccine and the final formulation of this vaccine includes residual amounts of the fetal host cell proteins (≤0.15 mcg) and/or host cell DNA (≤3 ng).

 Pfizer/BioNTech: The HEK-293 abortion-related cell line was used in research related to the development of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

 Moderna/NIAID: Aborted fetal cell lines were used in both the development and testing of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Further, plaintiffs religious beliefs are that they "oppose abortion under any circumstances, as they believe that abortion is the intrinsically evil killing of an innocent" and follow "spiritual leaders... who urge Christians to refuse said vaccines to avoid cooperation in abortion and to bear witness against it without compromise" and finally, their "religious conviction [is] against involuntary or coerced vaccination as an invasion of bodily autonomy contrary to their religious beliefs."


To be clear, the case is far from over with the next court deadline for the defendants to respond being set at September 22, 2021 at 5pm. As of this moment, no preliminary injunction or permanent injunction has been ordered. At this stage, the court has merely granted a temporary restraining order, which prohibits the denial of "religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination" until round two of the case.


However, if you are the type of person who has a sincerely held religious belief against vaccination, you should use this case as your blueprint to request an accommodation.




 


 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

New Legislation - Shared Work Program Gives Employers Flexibility to Avoid Layoffs

Struggling employers can reduce their employee's hours and those employees can offset their lost wages with unemployment insurance (UI) under the Shared Work Program, which now offers even more flexibility thanks to S.4049, which Governor Hochul signed on Labor Day (9/6/21).


The Shared Work Program provides employers with an alternative to laying off workers during business struggles by allowing employees to receive partial UI benefits while working reduced hours. 


Previously, under the Shared Work Program, employees could only collect partial UI benefits for up to 26 straight weeks, regardless of what their maximum benefit entitlement is under UI. 


Now, the new legislation changes the cap on shared work benefits from 26 straight weeks to an amount of time equal to 26 weeks' worth of benefits. In other words, employees can now collect UI benefits until they have reached their maximum benefit amount under UI. 


This change will ultimately extend the length of time a worker will receive benefits under the Shared Work Program.


According to Gov. Hochul, "these bills [workforce legislation package] will ensure that workers receive fair wages, benefits, and are kept safe in their work places." 


How big of an impact do you think this new legislation will have on workers and employers going forward?