Seven Massachusetts state police officers are keeping their jobs for now, despite the state trying to fire them for failing to follow Governor Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for all public workers.
According to The Boston Globethe seven troopers had applied for a religious exemption from the mandate, and when it was denied, the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM) filed a lawsuit on their behalf on March 3.
On Wednesday, Judge Christine Roach issued an injunction preventing them from being fired until the case is decided. Their next court date is April 28.
The Globe reported that the seven troopers, all of whom are currently on unpaid leave, were among 156 officers with SPAM who had applied for a religious waiver from the vaccine mandate.
All applications were rejected on the grounds that the police could not grant them without tarnishing public confidence, endangering other officers and the public and hindering the operation of the department. Globe reported.
This included those of the seven troopers who, according to state police in court documents, had genuine religious beliefs that would be violated by getting a vaccine, the paper wrote.
According to the Globethe lawsuit alleges that the state police failed to demonstrate the unnecessary hardships by housing the seven officers and allowing them to continue working, the department would cause.
“I find that the seven SPAM members have satisfied their preliminary injunctions with respect to the claim of religious discrimination, and the defendants have not fulfilled their preliminary injunctions with regard to the merits of the reasonable lodging defense,” Roach wrote in her decision.
Roach wrote that the case is not about whether vaccines work, but about collective bargaining and whether the troopers had a chance to solve their problems.
She said the state gave them a “Hobson’s choice, in other words, an apparently free choice with no real alternative.”
Patrick McNamara, the chairman of SPAM, released a statement on Facebook about the ruling on Wednesday.
“While we are grateful for Judge Roach’s decision, we are disappointed it was necessary to start with. Throughout this process, the Baker Administration has continued to demonstrate its unwillingness to negotiate or accommodate Troopers who hold genuine religious beliefs. We hope this ruling will encourage a change in its stance on mandatory vaccines and get all our Troopers back to work.”
The Globe reported that the Baker administration referred to state police for comment, and the state police declined to comment.
The ruling only applies to the seven troopers in question, and the state may continue to maintain its vaccine mandate for other workers, Roach concluded.
The Globe reported that Roach would not comment on the union’s claim of breach of contract.
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