Appeals court OKs Newark’s vaccine mandate for city workers

September 28, 2021 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey appeals court has upheld Newark’s vaccine mandate for city employees.

Mayor Ras Baraka issued the executive order last month requiring that employees show proof of full vaccination within 30 days or face discipline up to termination. That goes beyond a recent statewide order issued by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy that require state employees and teachers to be vaccinated by mid-October or undergo weekly testing.

Public worker unions including police and firefighters filed a complaint against Newark alleging unfair labor practices, and a state public employment commission paused the order this month and ruled the mandate was lawful but that the city had to negotiate terms with the unions.

In Monday’s ruling, the appeals court ruled the city has the authority to impose the vaccine mandate and is not required to engage in negotiations with the unions over the policy.

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Requiring negotiations “impermissibly interferes with the city’s managerial prerogative to protect the health and safety of all its employees and the city residents with whom those employees come into contact,” the court wrote.

Kevin McGovern, an attorney for Teamsters Local 97, a union representing university employees, said the court erred by not requiring negotiations that would have clarified the mandate’s terms of discipline.

“The order contained so many nuances that are open to interpretation,” he said. “It’s going to produce some unduly harsh results, even for some people who try to comply with the order.”