A group of New York City teachers asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block an order requiring them to have at least one Covid vaccine dose before they return to classrooms next week.
Thousands of public school employees will be forced out of work if the municipal rule remains in effect, they said in an emergency appeal directed to Sonia Sotomayor, the justice assigned to handle such cases from that region.
The city order would violate a teacher's fundamental right to pursue an occupation, their attorneys told the court, and teachers who failed to get vaccinated would never be able to return to work.
The order is unfair, they said, because it does not apply to other city employees who routinely deal with the public, including firefighters and police officers. Teachers, by contrast, "maintain close indoor contact with children, who are dramatically less susceptible to illness from Covid."
Other municipal workers are allowed to keep working if they submit to weekly Covid testing in lieu of getting vaccinated, they said.
Lower federal courts declined to block the vaccination mandate for teachers.
The vast majority of teachers have gotten at least one dose, according to the city and a teacher's union. But the United Federation of Teachers said the mandate could leave schools short-staffed.
Sotomayor will most likely seek a reply from the city before she acts on the case and will probably refer it to the full court for a decision.
In the past several months, the court has been receptive to claims that local Covid restrictions went too far. The claims mostly involved religious institutions that said they were singled out for limits on attendance that had not also been required of businesses.