Fired FDNY Firefighter Who Refused COVID Vaccine Ordered Reinstated

An FDNY firefighter who was terminated in March for refusing to get a COVID vaccine, has been reinstated by a Justice of the New York Supreme Court. Timothy Rivicci has been ordered reinstated with full backpay and benefits under a ruling by Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio last week.

Rivicci was terminated by FDNY after his request for a religious exemption was denied. He filed an Article 78 suit in Richmond County Supreme Court in June contending the city was wrong to deny his exemption request. A copy of the decision is not currently available, but quoted from Judge Porzio’s ruling as follows:

  • Hindsight is a powerful tool.
  • The pandemic today is not what it was a year, or even two years ago. Being vaccinated does not prevent an individual from contracting or transmitting COVID-19 … guidelines regarding quarantine and isolation are the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
  • This is not a commentary on the efficacy of vaccination, but about how we are treating our first responders, the ones who worked day-to-day through the height of the pandemic.
  • They deserve better. also quoted Judge Porzio as telling Rivicci “Now, go fight some fires.” In his decision Judge Porzio found the city failed to establish a “cooperative dialogue” with Rivicci to find a possible “solution” to each sides’ concerns. It would appear this references policy considerations that are akin to the Americans With Disabilities Act requirement that employers engage in an interactive process to find a reasonable accommodation for those with a disability. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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