Case Lesson: Newark’s Vaccine Mandate

Frank Ferreri

Newark, NJ ( – Those who read the Workers Comp Blogwire came across Jon L. Gelman’s piece recently detailing that a New Jersey court upheld the City of Newark’s mandate that all city employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As Gelman reported, the decision In the Matter of City of Newark, Nos. A-0146-21, A-0159-21 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 09/27/21) maintained that “when a public health emergency exits, governmental entities, including local authorities, have a recognized right to require vaccinations.” So, what gave the city that right? This chart breaks down how the court reached its decision.

Basis for City’s Authority Court’s Explanation Supporting Cases or Statutes
An immediate public health emergency has been created by COVID-19. Local authorities may require vaccinations when authorized by state law in a health emergency. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905); Sadlock v. Board of Education of Carlstadt in Bergen County, 58 A.2d 218 (N.J. 1948).
COVID numbers continue to increase. 1. As of late July, 95.5% of COVID-19 infections in New Jersey were caused by the Delta variant and 99.93% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated persons.

2. In June and July, 92.23% of those who had contracted COVID-19 in Newark had been unvaccinated.

3. Unvaccinated people are at a “tremendously higher risk” of both contracting the COVID-19 Delta variant and of passing on the infection to someone else.

4. The COVID-19 vaccination mandate will increase the number of vaccinated individuals in Newark, significantly reducing hospitalization and deaths resulting from COVID-19 and limiting COVID-19’s ability to mutate into deadlier or more contagious variants.

Presidential and gubernatorial action has been taken along similar lines. 1. President Biden has directed that all federal workers, as well as workers for federal contractors, be vaccinated or comply with testing requirements.

2. N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy announced that all state employees will be required to be vaccinated or comply with testing requirements.

3. “Moreover, other federal agencies, state officials, cities, and municipalities have also issued similar COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The city could act without a statue or regulation authorizing the mandate. The city has a “well-recognized” right to hire or direct its workforce, coupled with the “clear national and state public policy to combat the health threats posed by COVID-19.” Board of Education of the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District v. Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional Education Association, 410 A.2d 1131 (N.J. 1980)New Jersey Republican State Committee v. Murphy, 236 A.3d 898 (N.J. 2020)
The pandemic’s challenges are ongoing. “In confronting these challenges, municipalities remain ‘the broad repository of local police power,’” the court wrote. “That repository includes authority to legislate for the general health, safety, and welfare of residents.” N.J.S.A. 40:41A-28.

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