Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New York Enjoined Over Elimination of Religious Exemptions In Vaccine Mandate

In Dr. A v. Hochul, (ND NY, Oct. 12, 2021), a New York federal district court issued a preliminary injunction to health care workers who object to the elimination of religious exemptions from New York's requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID. The court concluded that the absence of an exemption conflicts with the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VII and with the Free Exercise clause.  The court said in part:

What matters here is not whether a religious practitioner would win or lose a future Title VII lawsuit. What matters is that plaintiffs’ current showing establishes that § 2.61 has effectively foreclosed the pathway to seeking a religious accommodation that is guaranteed under Title VII.....

The court also concluded that the law is neither neutral nor generally applicable. The state's original vaccine mandate included both medical and religious exemptions. Subsequently religious exemptions were eliminated. The court said in part:

This intentional change in language is the kind of “religious gerrymander” that triggers heightened scrutiny.

The court had previously issued a temporary restraining order in the case. (See prior posting.) Liberty Counsel issued a press release announcing the decision. AP reports on the decision.