Mayor Bowser's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for DC employees is unlawful, judge rules

A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Mayor Muriel Bowser's coronavirus vaccination mandate for District government employees is unlawful.

The ruling from Judge Maurice A. Ross comes after a lawsuit was filed by the D.C. Police Union earlier this year.

In the decision, Judge Ross said that Bowser "lacks legal authority to impose a vaccine mandate," when she announced in August 2021 that all government employees in the District will be required to get fully vaccinated for COVID-19

In January 2022, D.C. officials announced that employees who did not apply for a religious or medical exemption were required to get vaccinated by February 15. Those who didn't would have faced disciplinary actions that could have included a written reprimand, suspension or even termination.

Washington, DC - December 22: Mayor Muriel Bowser held a press conference on Wednesday, December 22, 2021 at the Marion S. Barry Jr. Building to give a COVID-19 Situational Update where she discussed vaccine requirements. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Th

The decision from Judge Ross states that any such vaccination mandate should have been passed into law by the D.C. Council.

The D.C. Police Union Chairman Gregg Pemberton released the following statement after the judge's decision was announced:

"This is a significant victory for our Union that protects the rights of our members and ensures that they will no longer be forced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine against their will and will no longer be subjected to discipline for deciding not to receive the vaccine. This has been a long and unnecessary fight. Had the Mayor just engaged the Union in good faith bargaining, we could have reached a reasonable compromise that protected everyone’s interests. Nonetheless, we are pleased that Judge Ross agreed with our arguments and issued this ruling. Now, all of our members can go back to doing the necessary work of trying to protect our communities from crime and violence without unlawful threats of discipline and termination."

READ MORE: DC to require government employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Bowser says

As part of the ruling, Ross said D.C. can no longer enforce the vaccine mandate, and must also reverse any disciplinary actions that were taken against non-compliant government workers, including loss of benefits or pay.

On Friday, Mayor Bowser's office indicated in a statement that it disagreed with the judge's decision, but said it will comply with the courts order.

You can read the Mayor's full statement below:

"We are reviewing the Court’s ruling, and believe that the judge misunderstood the strength and diversity of the authorities we relied upon in issuing the employee vaccination mandate. Over the past year and a half, we have seen that COVID-19 vaccines work — they keep people out of the hospital and save lives. We are grateful for all residents and employees who stepped up and got vaccinated, whether they did so with no reservations or whether they did so nervously but because they knew it was the right thing to do. Because of our collective effort, countless lives have been saved. Going forward, we will comply with the Court’s orders as we continue encouraging our community to access life-saving vaccines."