Police union sues NYPD over exemption requests for vaccine mandate

The union claims so many cops have filed requests that it can't keep up with the avalanche of applications

By Noah Goldberg
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The NYPD received so many requests from cops seeking exemption from the vaccine mandate that dozens of unqualified lawyers are now processing the applications and sending out rubber-stamp denials, the city’s largest police union argued Monday in a new lawsuit.

Some 6,500 cops have filed requests for exemption from the vaccine mandate for religious or medical reasons since the mandate went into effect Oct. 29.

The Police Benevolent Association claims in the Manhattan Supreme Court suit that the NYPD’s Equal Employment Opportunity Division couldn’t handle the avalanche of applications. So the unit enlisted 75 lawyers not trained for the task, the suit states.

The unit began sending cookie-cutter denials that are thin on details and not case-specific, the union argues. The denials started landing in cops’ inboxes shortly before Thanksgiving, police sources said.

“After careful review of your application and the documents you submitted, the reasonable accommodation is denied at this time,” the denial letter reads.

The PBA says the letters are insufficient.

“Rather than personally addressing the individual officer applying for a reasonable accommodation, the denial is a form letter addressed, ‘Dear applicant,’ " the suit says. “The letter fails to specify the type of accommodation requested — many officers applied for both religious and medical exemptions and, consequently, have no way of knowing which request for exemption was denied.”

Officers were not interviewed before receiving the letters from the NYPD, lawyers for the PBA argue. The union seeks a pause on processing the applications until a judge examines the NYPD’s protocol.

Of the 6,500 applicants seeking exemption from the mandate, 3,900 are rank-and-file officers, according to the PBA.

As of Nov. 22, 87% of the force is vaccinated, according to city stats.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Nov. 5 that it would take roughly a month to process the exemption requests. He said cops seeking to avoid the mandate would be able to appeal a decision.

The PBA was one of many unions representing city workers that unsuccessfully sued to block the mandate from going into effect, arguing the requirement violated cops’ “bodily autonomy.”

The NYPD declined to comment on the suit.

“The city’s process for evaluating and providing reasonable accommodations is lawful and effective,” a Law Department spokesman said.

With Rocco Parascandola

©2021 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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