NYPD cop can’t be fired for not having COVID vaccine, judge rules

New York Post – by Priscilla DeGregory

An NYPD cop who sued over the city’s COVID vaccine mandate can’t be fired for not having the jab, according to a new “precedent-setting” ruling that could help nearly two dozen police officers who’ve filed similar cases, The Post has learned.

A Manhattan judge said Officer Alexander Deletto, 43, should be allowed to keep his job, noting in a Tuesday ruling that the city gave the Brooklyn cop no explanation for why it rejected his religious exemption application.

This is the first such ruling in an NYPD officer’s case fighting their possible firing over the mandate, according to attorney James Mermigis, who is representing Deletto and has been dubbed “the anti-shutdown” lawyer for taking on a slew of pandemic-related litigation.

“It’s a precedent-setting case,” Mermigis said of Deletto’s lawsuit. “It’s the first of its kind.”

The city first denied the request for religious exemption from Deletto, who is Catholic, on Feb. 15, and later shot down his appeal with only “does not meet criteria” given as an explanation, according to his lawsuit.

“The hollow and generic phrase ‘does not meet criteria’ cannot be rational because not a single item particular to [Deletto] was discussed and not a single reason for the decision was given,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth ruled.

“There is no indication that anybody even read [Deletto’s] arguments,” the judge wrote, adding, “It is the duty of the agency to explain why it made the decision.”

Deletto — a nine-year veteran of the force who works out of the 88th Precinct in Clinton Hill — filed suit the day before he was set to be fired on Aug. 5 for not getting vaccinated.

Bluth then granted a temporary restraining order, allowing the father of five to stay on the force pending her decision.

“His biggest concern when he wandered into my office in early August was how he was going to support his children,” Mermigis told The Post Wednesday. “He didn’t know what he was going to do, but under no circumstances was he going to betray his religious beliefs.”

Mermigis said his client was “elated” at the judge’s decision that he can keep his job and remain unvaccinated.

“He feels vindicated,” the attorney said, adding that Deletto can now breathe “a big sigh of relief.”

Mermigis has filed more than 20 cases on behalf of cops opposing their termination for not getting the jab.

“My goal is to keep them employed,” Mermigis said of the officers he represents. “The last thing we need is to fire more cops when there is an acceleration of crime.

“These are people that were heroes during COVID that put their own safety at risk to help the city of New York and this is how the mayor treats them?” he said. “It’s an absolute disgrace.”

The attorney said he’s hopeful the decision will help in his other cases — since those cops also were not given explanations for why their religious exemption requests were denied.

“It was so thoroughly analyzed by the judge. In my opinion, it’s appeal-proof,” though Mermigis said he suspects the city will appeal anyway.

As of July, more than 1,750 city workers were fired for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine — including at least 36 from the NYPD.

Many lawsuits have been filed over the vaccine mandate including by the NYPD’s largest union the Police Benevolent Association – which argued in one case that Mayor Eric Adams’ exception of the mandate for performers and athletes undermined claims of protecting public health.

“We are pleased to see Justice Bluth’s ruling in favor of this individual member, which builds upon the PBA’s previous challenges to the city and NYPD’s arbitrary and capricious reasonable accommodation processes,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement to The Post Wednesday.

“We will continue to move forward with our pending lawsuits on behalf of all our members, which not only challenge the implementation of the mandate but also the city’s authority to impose the mandate in the first place.”

A spokesman from the city Law Department said:  “A court has previously upheld the NYPD’s reasonable accommodation process, ruling it complies with all applicable laws.

“Both the NYPD and a citywide appeals panel carefully reviewed this officer’s accommodation request. The city is reviewing this decision and is considering its options.”

The NYPD and City Hall deferred comment to the Law Department.


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