North Carolina police and firefighters sue city’s Vax policy

A group of 68 police, firefighters and other City of Raleigh employees filed a lawsuit this week, claiming the city’s COVID-19 vaccination policies are “discriminatory.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Wake County Superior Court, names the City of Raleigh, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and City Manager Marchell Adams-David as defendants, according to a copy of the suit obtained by The News & Observer.

Lawyers James Lawrence and Anthony Biller of Envisage Law represent the city’s 68 employees, including 34 police officers and 19 firefighters.

The complaint calls out a number of discriminatory Raleigh policies, including the city’s decision to limit promotions to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Without even bothering to put the matter to a vote, the Mayor and the Director General issued the following communiqué to more than 3,800 police officers, firefighters and other City employees: you can continue to work for us, but if you do not take one of the COVID-19 vaccines, we will not promote you,” the attorneys wrote in the complaint.

The lawsuit comes after a group of more than 100 city workers threatened legal action over the policy last year.

Julia Milstead, a city spokeswoman, said she could not comment on ongoing or pending lawsuits.

As of Wednesday, 84.6% of full-time municipal employees and 56.3% of part-time employees were vaccinated, Milstead said.

About 79% of police department employees and 75% of fire department employees are vaccinated, Milstead said.

Raleigh Vaccine Policies

Last year, the city implemented policies limiting promotions to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and requiring those who have not been vaccinated to undergo weekly testing.

As of April 1, unvaccinated employees are no longer required to undergo weekly testing, but the promotion requirement remains in effect, Milstead said.

According to city policy, requests for exemptions for medical or religious reasons will be “reviewed and determined on a case-by-case basis.”

The city will also add a $50 per month health insurance supplement for employees, retirees and spouses covered by the Raleigh Health Care Plan who do not provide proof of vaccinations. This surcharge will come into effect on January 1, 2023.

The lawsuit states that these policies force employees “to choose between injecting themselves with a vaccine into their bodies about which they have serious questions and concerns and seeking career advancement elsewhere.”

Lawsuit alleges policies violate city and state law

Among other complaints in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that by treating vaccinated and unvaccinated employees differently, Raleigh violated its own anti-discrimination policy.

The city’s anti-discrimination policy states that the city “will oppose discrimination based on real or perceived age, mental or physical disability, gender, religion, race, color, sexual orientation , gender identity or expression, family or marital status, economic status, veteran status or national origin in any aspect of modern life.”

The complaint pointed to a paragraph in that policy that directs the city manager to “ensure that there is no discrimination in any function or area of ​​municipal administration.” Plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit that the section does not specify any protected class and that the city’s vaccination mandate discriminates against those who are not vaccinated.

But a professor of labor and employment law at UNC-Chapel Hill told The News & Observer last year that he thought a court was unlikely to read the city’s policy. in this way, further noting that vaccination mandates are nothing new.

The lawsuit also alleges that the city exceeded its authority and does not have “express authority” to mandate vaccines under state law.

Other complaints in the lawsuit allege that the city’s policies violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs requested a jury trial.

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