Chicago Employees Fired for Not Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine Must Be Reinstated: Judge

Chicago Employees Fired for Not Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine Must Be Reinstated: Judge
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at an election night rally at Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council in Chicago on Feb. 28, 2023. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Workers in Chicago who were fired for not complying with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate must get their jobs back, a judge said in a new ruling.

City officials violated multiple parts of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act by imposing the mandate without negotiating with unions representing the workers over the effects of the mandate, including consequences for not getting vaccinated, Administrative Law Judge Anna Hamburg-Gal said in a 78-page ruling dated April 19.

The mandate itself was not subject to bargaining because the vaccination requirements were “integral to [the city’s] ability to maintain a functional workforce that was capable of carrying out public services during a global pandemic,” Hamburg-Gal said. But that didn’t remove the need to bargain over aspects of the mandate.

“Even where an employer’s decision to implement a management policy is not subject to negotiations, the Act requires good-faith collective bargaining over the effects of that policy decision on the terms and conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees,” the judge said.

Effects that should have been negotiated included sick leave availability for workers who were injured by a vaccine and discipline for failing to report vaccination status or failing to get vaccinated, according to the ruling.

No emergency removed the bargaining requirements for the mandate, which was imposed on Oct. 8, 2021, the judge said.

“By that date, the pandemic had been in existence for well over a year and a vaccine had been available to the public for over ten months under Emergency Use Authorization,” the ruling noted.

The city also violated the law by not providing unions with information they requested that was relevant to negotiations and by eliminating a testing alternative to vaccination.

The city was ordered to bargain with the unions, including the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); provide the information that had been withheld, and rescind the vaccination requirements.

City officials were also ordered to reinstate any workers terminated as a result of the mandate, rescind any discipline for workers who were not terminated, and expunge the records of both sets of workers as it relates to actions taken due to the mandate.

Employees who lost pay or benefits due to the improper changes to sick leave made as part of the mandate must be compensated, the judge also said.

A spokesperson for AFSCME told news outlets: “We think it’s a strong decision and favorable for worker rights generally.”

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the ruling “was an erroneous decision that does not follow the law, facts nor importantly the science” and that the city was considering its next steps.

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at [email protected]
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