Seven troopers with the Massachusetts State Police who were suspended in 2021 for refusing the COVID-19 shot for religious reasons must reinstated with retroactive pay and earned seniority. The troopers have been on unpaid leave, but an independent arbitrator, Bonnie J. McSpiritt, ruled they can return to work if they choose.
The State Police Association of Massachusetts, the union representing these state troopers, filed a grievance and sought an injunction, after the law enforcement officers were suspended following former Governor Charlie Baker’s executive order in August 2021, requiring the COVID-19 shot mandate for state employees. Governor Baker ordered approximately 42,000 state employees to receive the COVID shots by October 17 or be terminated. Approximately 1,000 employees resigned or were fired for failing to comply with the mandate.
Current Gov. Maura Healey lifted the shot mandate on May 11, 2023, the same day that the federal COVID public health emergency ended.
Approximately 160 troopers applied for religious exemptions from the shot mandate. Of those who sought religious exemptions to the COVID-19 shot mandate, only seven were deemed by the department’s interactive process to have a sincerely held religious belief that conflicted with receiving the shot. These seven were “protected” by an injunction which halted their termination but left them suspended without pay for 19 months. As a result, they were contractually forbidden from seeking outside employment and, in many cases, denied unemployment benefits.
Of the troopers who were found not to have a sincerely held religious belief, 13 still refused to compromise their faith by submitting to coerced vaccination. Those 13 were not protected by the injunction and were terminated in late 2021 / early 2022.
Incidentally, one of those troopers interned as a law student with Liberty Counsel this summer.
The president of the union stated they would continue to fight for the 13 additional officers who were dishonorably discharged from the police force.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Former Governor Charlie Baker had no authority to mandate the experimental COVID shots and deny religious accommodations to these state troopers. Let us never forget this insanity. This is a great victory for these troopers and more public servants must also be reinstated and given back pay.”