Employees Fired For Refusing COVID Vaccine Labeled With ‘Problem Codes’ That Were Sent To FBI
( Daily Caller )
Many employees fired for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons will not be able to get rehired due to being assigned a “problem code” by the New York City Department of Education (DOE), a code that is also sent to the FBI, according to oral arguments made Wednesday by Alliance Defending Freedom in the case of New Yorkers for Religious Liberty v. the City of New York.
Mayor Eric Adams announced that New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees will end on Feb. 10 after thousands of workers were fired for declining to adhere to the rule, but stated that those workers would now be able to reapply for their positions. Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal firm focused on protecting the First Amendment rights of Americans, pointed out during oral arguments that many former employees would not be able to get their jobs back because the DOE had marked workers who refused to comply with the mandate with a “problem code” that is also tied to their fingerprints and sent to the FBI.
John Bursch, attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the mayor’s claim about fired employees getting rehired was ” just not true in every case.”
“Even for those who are eligible for reinstatement, when they apply they’ve all got so-called ‘problem codes’ in their personal file because they purportedly failed to fulfill a contractual condition, which was to get vaccinated,” Bursch said. “What is really horrible about that is not only does it affect their ability to get rehired by the state of New York, it affects their ability to go to any other employer because that ‘problem code’ note is paired with their fingerprints as a warning flag and sent to the FBI and the New York criminal justice services.”
Workers discovered that they had been flagged with “problem codes” and told that they could not get them removed until they had fulfilled the necessary work requirements by getting vaccinated, several documents, including employee files and email correspondence, provided to the DCNF by ADF show. One email sent from the DOE stated that “all employees who were placed on 2VM vaccine mandate leave” were given codes.
Another document, filed by an attorney with knowledge of the case, argued that the DOE’s claims that “problem codes” can only be viewed by the department are untrue.
“To the contrary, any non-DOE school or official that wants to learn whether a former DOE employee has a problem code in his or her personnel file can easily do so in a variety of ways,” the attorney wrote. “For example, non-DOE schools which offer DOE-funded positions have access to the DOE’s payment portal, Galaxy, which allows them to see problem codes; indeed Plaintiffs present evidence of at least 15 former DOE employees who were not hired at non-DOE schools because the non-DOE schools discovered their problem codes.”
One former employee, a teacher and therapist at NYC’s Early Intervention Program for children with disabilities or developmental issues, said that she was informed about her “problem code” by the agency she was working with, which has no affiliation with the DOE and should not have access to the “problem code,” according to documents from ADF.
“I was shocked that I had been flagged as ineligible to work, because such problem codes often indicate poor performance reviews, misconduct, or even criminal activity. None of these apply to me,” the employee said in her statement. “I did not understand how someone from outside the DOE could even possess this incorrect information about me, I was extremely embarrassed by its negative implications, and I was immensely disappointed that I had to inform the families that I had been assigned to that I could not service their children.”
Bursch told the DCNF that, for example, Pope Francis’ endorsement of the vaccine made it much more difficult for New York Catholics to obtain a religious exemption.
“The city simply didn’t like that some people objected to the vaccine on religious grounds and they punished them for that,” Bursch said.
Adams, the New York City DOE and the FBI did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.