There is a city investigation into the COVID vaccination card...

There is a city investigation into the COVID vaccination card allegations, and the accused personnel can't return to their jobs until it's complete, a spokesman for the mayor said. Credit: AP/Craig Ruttle

Nearly 100 teachers, administrators, school secretaries, psychologists and other New York City Department of Education personnel are being forced to go on leave without pay after allegedly submitting what turned out to be phony COVID-19 vaccination cards.

Those who received the notification, sent via email Tuesday, were instructed not to return to work Monday from spring break and not to return until cleared by a city investigation into the allegations, Mayor Eric Adams' spokesman Jonah Allon said Saturday.

The suspensions are being challenged by the United Federation of Teachers labor union, which filed a legal notice Friday threatening to sue and arguing that the city acted abruptly without following procedure, such as giving tenured teachers a hearing, set out in law and union contracts.

The union estimates that 82 of those who are suspended are UFT members, according to spokeswoman Alison Gendar. 

Although the suspensions are unpaid, benefits such as medical insurance continue, the legal notice said. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference...

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference in March. On Saturday, Adams said he was just learning about the teachers union litigation, but said, "I'm disappointed if anyone had a fake vaccination card."  Credit: AP

Speaking Saturday after a bike ride for Earth Day, Adams said he was just learning about the union litigation. "I'm disappointed if anyone had a fake vaccination card. I think that it undermines the entire system; when a parent dropped their child off to school, they did it with the understanding that everyone inside that building that's employed there was vaccinated," he said.

It's unclear how the cards at issue have raised the city’s suspicions.

The education personnel aren't the first municipal workers to be accused of faking being vaccinated. Late last year, NYPD cops and sanitation workers were put under investigation over such allegations.

In February, an estimated 1,500 municipal workers, including teachers, were fired for failure to get vaccinated. That number could go up as claims for exemptions are processed.

Last year, city education personnel were among the first group of municipal workers to be subject to a vaccine mandate, which later expanded to the entire workforce.

The city is taking a different approach for its private-sector mandate, which orders all employers to check each worker's proof of vaccination, maintain records of who is and who isn't vaccinated, and “must exclude from the workplace any worker” who's unvaccinated, according to the city's order.

New York City is the nation's only jurisdiction with such a vaccination requirement for the private sector, but the city isn't enforcing the mandate. Adams on Saturday wouldn't say when or whether the city plans to start: "We're not trying to be heavy-handed and just go in and be harmful to businesses and to residents."

"It was never about giving fines to people. It was motivating good behavior, and we are doing our spot-inspection checks if we receive complaints, we're following up on that," Adams said. 

Representatives for businesses big and small, including Francisco “Frank” Marte, the head of a citywide bodega association, told Newsday last month that the city wasn't enforcing the mandate. Marte said “most” of his members also weren't enforcing it.

So how many complaints for violating the private-sector vaccine mandate has the city gotten?

"We're not getting a lot, because New Yorkers are following the rules, and so I'm happy that we don't need a lot," Adams told Newsday.

He said his staff would provide the number, but as of Saturday afternoon hadn't replied to an email seeking that information. 

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