A judge who previously denied a preliminary injunction sought by a group of Los Angeles firefighters -- who sued the city asking to be paid pending hearings about possible termination for refusing the coronavirus vaccine -- Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety.
Saying the balance of harms weighed against granting their request, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael P. Linfield issued his preliminary injunction ruling Dec. 21, a day after hearing arguments in the lawsuit filed Sept. 17 by the nonprofit irefighters4Freedom Foundation, which represents more than 500 members of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The City Attorney's Office on Jan. 18 filed a motion to dismiss the suit, with lawyers arguing in their court papers that it has been “well settled” under the U.S. Constitution for more than a century that compulsory vaccination is lawful.
“In fact, courts have consistently rejected challenges to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, such as the one at issue here,” the City Attorney's Office wrote in its court papers.
In a tentative ruling issued Friday and finalized Tuesday, Linfield concurred with the city's arguments.
“This is another in a long line of cases that challenges vaccination mandates,” Linfield wrote. “No court has upheld such a challenge. This case is equally without merit.”
City Attorney Mike Feuer noted that the ruling was the fifth victory obtained by his office against challengers of vaccine mandates since December.
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“The overwhelming majority of our city's first responders have protected themselves, their colleagues, their loved ones and our community by complying with the vaccine mandate,” Feuer said. “It's time for everyone in the city family to step up. Cases are finally coming down. Getting vaccinated and boosted can help us continue this encouraging, and long overdue, trend.”
Firefighters4Freedom alleged that the city's vaccination directive, among other things, violates their members' constitutionally protected right to privacy.
In his court papers opposing the dismissal motion, Firefighters4Freedom attorney Scott J. Street stated that his clients were not challenging the vaccine ordinance on its face. He said the suit instead focused on the city's decision, made several months later, to stop paying more than 100 city firefighters without a prior hearing -- and action Street maintained was unconstitutional.
But the judge wrote that the law does not entitle municipal firefighters to a hearing before an adverse employment action during an emergency. Rather, the law affords the firefighters “a framework to determine whether a post-deprivation adverse employment action complied with the employee's due process rights,” the judge wrote.
The firefighters’ suit “does not challenge the city's determination that it navigated an emergency; rather (Firefighters4Freedom) essentially pleads that even during an emergency, due process equates to notice and a hearing before any adverse employment actions take effect,” the judge wrote. “This is not the law.”