State Police should reinstate 7 troopers who refused to get COVID-19 vaccine, arbitrator says


The arbitrator dominated that Massachusetts State Police did not make “affordable lodging” for the troopers.

Massachusetts State Police has been ordered to supply seven suspended troopers their jobs again. They had been suspended for not complying with Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state staff. David Ryan/The Boston Globe

An arbitrator dominated in favor of eight state troopers who had been denied a spiritual exemption to former Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state staff Friday.

As a part of the ruling, the arbitrator ordered Massachusetts State Police to supply seven of the troopers, who had been suspended for not complying with the mandate, their jobs again, in addition to again pay.

Ending a authorized battle that started in 2021, the arbitrator determined that the police division failed to supply “affordable lodging” to the troopers and their “sincerely held” non secular beliefs, the State Police Affiliation of Massachusetts stated in a press launch Friday.

State Police beforehand acknowledged that the troopers certified for a spiritual exemption. By nonetheless requiring them to get the vaccine, the arbitrator determined, the division violated the contractual rights of the troopers to anti-discrimination and affirmative motion, the union stated.

“[Baker’s vaccine mandate] was extra than simply an affront to the hard-working members of the Mass State Police, it was an assault on organized labor and the rights of our members,” the union, which represents the massive majority of State Police workers, stated within the launch.

State Police suspended the troopers for not getting the vaccine in late 2021. It later moved to fireplace seven of the troopers, however a choose stopped them from being fired in March 2022, leaving them on unpaid suspension. The eighth trooper acquired vaccinated and returned to work.

The arbitrator’s ruling

Within the ruling, arbitrator Bonnie McSpiritt wrote that State Police didn’t show they couldn’t accommodate the troopers, The Boston Globe reported. The division, as an illustration, didn’t present why it couldn’t accommodate the troopers the identical means it had accommodated a trooper that had certified for a medical exemption.

Although the division should now supply the troopers their jobs again, it’s unclear whether or not the troopers will really rejoin the division.

The arbitrator additionally awarded the troopers full again pay and advantages going again to their preliminary suspension — minus any interim earnings and unemployment compensation, in addition to their seniority rights, the union stated.

“Governor Baker and his administration refused to pay attention or work with our Affiliation, however in the present day we are able to now not be ignored,” the union wrote within the launch.

“These members, whose non secular convictions had been trampled, and who had been left with out pay or advantages, now can select to return to work and will likely be made entire by means of retroactive pay and earned seniority.”

State Police spokesperson David Procopio stated Sunday in a press release that the division is “reviewing the ruling to find out its scope and the executive and authorized steps required for its implementation.”

Baker didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the ruling, the Globe reported.

What led as much as the ruling

In August 2021, Gov. Baker ordered over 40,000 state workers to supply proof that they’d obtained the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-October of that 12 months or danger being fired. The then-governor stated the measure was meant to guard the general public’s well being.

Baker allowed staff to use for a spiritual or health-based exemption. Nonetheless, the State Police union sued to have the mandate struck down, a request which a choose quickly denied.

Over 150 of the union’s members utilized for a spiritual exemption, however State Police denied all of them. The division alleged it couldn’t accommodate them with out placing others’ security, public belief, and division operations in danger.

State Police then tried to fireplace workers who nonetheless didn’t adjust to the mandate, and the union sued.

Some State Police workers resigned over the mandate, however 13 others had been “dishonorably discharged” for not complying. The union stated Friday that it’s nonetheless preventing the choice in court docket.

Gov. Maura Healey, who supported the mandate, ended it in Could 2023.

In March, three unions misplaced a authorized problem to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for metropolis workers, which the town by no means enforced.