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Judge pauses enforcement of Dec. 31 Chicago police vaccine mandate

Judge pauses enforcement of Dec. 31 Chicago police vaccine mandate
A judge on Monday ruled that police officers in Chicago are not required to get vaccinated by a Dec. 31 deadline put in place by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. File Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI/Pool | License Photo

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A judge on Monday ruled that Chicago cannot require police officers to get vaccinated by the end of the year, sending the city and police unions back to the negotiating table.

Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell granted a partial temporary restraining order, keeping in place Mayor Lori Lightfoot's requirement that officers report their vaccination status but exempting members of Chicago's police unions from the Dec. 31 vaccination deadline, urging the city and unions to pursue labor arbitration.

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"The reporting obligation itself is a minimal intrusion, particularly considering that police officers already are obligated to provide medical information to their employer," Mitchell wrote.

The judge, however, rejected the city's assertion that members of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, the union that led the lawsuit, could pursue a union grievance in response to the vaccine mandate.

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"'Obey now, grieve later' is not possible," he wrote. "If every union member complied ... they would have no grievance to pursue and there would be no remedy an arbitrator could award. An award of back pay or reinstatement cannot undo a vaccine. Nothing can."

Mitchell's order does not alter the status of officers who have refused to provide their vaccination status by the Oct. 15 deadline established by Lightfoot's mandate. At least 27 officers have been placed on "non-disciplinary, no-pay status" for defying the order, according to statements made in court.

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The ruling Monday comes after a federal judge denied a bid for a temporary restraining order blocking the mandate from a group of Chicago firefighters and other city employees.

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Chicago's local FOP lodge said it was "pleased" with Mitchell's ruling Monday but added that there are "still issues to work out going forward."

Lightfoot at a press conference Monday said that the city's lawyers were examining the ruling and "looking at what our legal options are," while noting vaccine mandates have been held up throughout the country.

"I'm not aware of a single instance in which a mandate put in place has been invalidated," she said.

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