UTICA, N.Y. - A federal judge ruled that New York must continue to allow health care workers to seek exemptions from a statewide vaccine mandate on religious grounds as a lawsuit challenging the requirement proceeds.
Judge David Hurd in Utica had issued a temporary restraining order a month ago after 17 doctors, nurses and other health professionals claimed in a lawsuit that their rights would be violated with a vaccine mandate that disallowed the exemptions.
Hurd’s ruling Tuesday means New York will continue to be barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions.
Tuesday afternoon, Governor Kathy Hochul issued an email statement responding to the judge's ruling.
"My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe."
When asked for a response, Mohawk Valley Health System SVP/Chief Human Resource Officer Robert Scott released this statement:
“The decision today from U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd to issue a preliminary injunction that prevents New York State from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate with respect to a religious exemption is a step forward in clarifying the actions health systems need to take with regard to employees seeking religious accommodates for the COVID vaccine mandate.
However, we are also waiting for a decision from a federal appeals court in Manhattan which allowed for religious objections while it considers whether the mandate as a whole is legal. We expect to hear this decision this Thursday, October 14, 2021.
Until the courts have fully decided on this matter, including any appeals that may come forward, MVHS will continue to allow those who have requested religious accommodations to remain in their current positions. Once a final decision is made in the courts, we will review the decision and take action accordingly.”
Bassett Healthcare Network also offered a response to the judge's ruling:
"Since the announcement of the New York State Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Bassett Healthcare Network has been committed to providing our employees with the support and resources they need to help them through this process. We continue to monitor any developments as legal challenges move through the judicial system and are assessing how this most recent ruling may impact our employees. Most importantly, Bassett remains dedicated to providing excellent care to our patients and communities."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.