New York

Court worker fears backlog in cases as vaccine mandate looms

Rochester, New York — Healthcare workers, and some other workers across New York State were mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If not, They were fired if refused to get the vaccine. The directive also applies to employees in the court system.
‘Gladys’, is a court office assistant in Rochester, who wanted to keep her name anonymous. When it comes to the vaccine mandate, she has a religious exemption but was deemed unfit to work in January and forced to use her vacation time. “…and there’s no saying if the court’s going to renew the religious exemptions,” she says.
According to Gladys, she got a letter Monday telling her she needs to get the vaccine. “It said we had 14 days until April 4th. But they did clarify on the 4th, we won’t technically be terminated. We’ll get another letter saying that the 7th will be the termination date,” she says.
Lucian Chalfen with New York Courts weighed in on the matter:
“As of September 27th, 2021 all Judges and non-judicial employees were required to be vaccinated or be found in violation of our vaccination mandate policy. Yesterday we notified 156 court employees statewide that they failed to meet the qualification for employment and should there be no change in their status of non-compliance with our vaccine mandate policy in the next 13 calendar days, they will be terminated. These employees have been given adequate time to either comply or submit an accepted medical or religious exemption. Currently, they are barred from entering any court facility, and their absence is being charged to any accruals that they may have. Additionally, there are four Judges who are out of compliance with our vaccine mandate policy, one in New York City and three outside the City. They too are being held to account, as actions have consequences. They are barred from entering any court facility and must work from home. Judges with criminal jurisdiction are not allowed to conduct arraignments. We had made it clear from the outset that any Judge not in compliance subjects themselves to a referral to the Commission on Judicial Conduct for their determination.”
Gladys feels the number is more than 156 workers; she says it’s more like 300. “We were already short-staffed, so I’m sure it’s almost a hardship for the court right now,” she says adding, “Trials might get…might have to be adjourned, or re-scheduled, or pushed out.”
She is also asking why a work environment, like a courtroom, needs to have everyone vaccinated. She says everyone is pretty much apart, nothing like,– for example,– a hospital. “The courtroom’s already set up that we’re socially distant even prior to COVID beginning,” she said.
 

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