On August 4th, an arbitrator ruled that police officials in Massachusetts made a mistake by suspending eight state troopers for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The troops requested exemptions from the mandate due to their religious beliefs, but officials turned down the requests, which ultimately resulted in their suspensions.
The Department of the State Police violated the troopers’ rights when their exemption requests were denied, the arbitrator ruled, according to the State Police Association of Massachusetts, a union, and lawyer Leah Marie Barrault.
The arbitrator found that the troopers “hold a sincere religious belief that conflicted with the vaccine and that they should have been afforded the opportunity to have their individual accommodation requests reviewed and not summarily discarded,” Ms. Barrault, who represented the troopers, said in a statement.
The department did not return a request for comment. In a statement to local outlets, a spokesperson said: “We are reviewing today’s ruling to determine the administrative and legal steps required for its implementation.”
The union said that the arbitrator ordered officials to contact the troopers to offer them reinstatement as well as full back pay for the period of suspension.
Seven of the troopers have been suspended since 2021. The eighth has already returned to duty after a period of suspension.
“Earlier today, I had the distinct honor and privilege of informing seven of our Troopers, who have been suspended without pay due to Executive Order 595, that they would be returning to work,” Patrick McNamara, president of the police association, said in a statement.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, issued the order, which required all executive branch workers to prove they’d been vaccinated by October 2021.
Mr. Baker said that vaccination was “the most effective tool” for combating COVID-19 and that “widespread vaccination is the only means the Commonwealth has over the long-term to ensure protection from COVID-19 in all its variations and to end the many negative consequences COVID-19 produces in our daily lives.”
Workers who did not comply with the mandate were told they would face punishment, including termination.
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