Dozens of NYC DOE employees on unpaid leave for alleged fake COVID vaccine cards


The city’s Department of Education placed a number of employees on unpaid leave after finding that they submitted fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, a spokesperson for the agency said Friday.

“Fewer than 100” DOE employees submitted fake cards to circumvent the city’s vaccine mandate for teachers and other municipal workers, DOE Press Secretary Nathaniel Styer said in a statement provided to NY1.

The department “immediately moved” to put the employees “on leave without pay,” Styer said.

“Fraudulent vaccination cards are not only illegal, they also undermine the best line of protection our schools have against COVID-19 — universal adult vaccination,” Styer said in the statement.

Law enforcement officials and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District are investigating the situation, DOE sources said.

The decision to place the employees on leave drew the ire of the United Federation of Teachers, the union that represents thousands of current and former public school teachers.

In a letter sent to the Department of Education’s general counsel on Thursday, the UFT’s general counsel, Beth Norton, said the agency’s statement about the vaccination cards amounted to “unproven allegations.”

Some of the UFT members who learned they would be placed on unpaid leave — with benefits — on April 25 emailed the department “to state they were sent the notice in error,” Norton wrote, adding that they “have not received a response.”

“As expounded on below, it is wholly improper for the DOE to unilaterally remove UFT members from the payroll based on mere conjecture that vaccination documentation is fraudulent,” Norton said. “The DOE must comply with the compulsory due process procedures before depriving UFT members of their livelihood.”

Norton also called on the department to “immediately rescind” the notices it sent to the employees. The UFT is “prepared to initiate litigation to challenge the DOE’s improper actions” if the agency does not, she added.

Asked about the DOE’s decision at a news conference on Friday, Mayor Eric Adams said he was “really disappointed to learn that there were fake vaccination cards.”

“Not only is that illegal, it undermines our entire trust,” he said. “And my understanding is it’s being investigated, and we’re going to see the outcome of the investigation.”

Toni Gantz, executive deputy counsel for the DOE, released a statement in response to Norton’s comments.

“Placement of these employees on LWOP is because we have received information from a law enforcement agency that they have not complied with the New York City Health Commissioner’s Order requiring vaccination of all DOE staff. Compliance with that Order is a condition of DOE employment, and DOE cannot permit unvaccinated employees, absent an exemption or accommodation, to perform work for DOE,” the statement reads.

“These employees’ placement on LWOP does not constitute discipline and is not related to misconduct – rather, the placement is related to the employees’ eligibility status – and therefore does not implicate disciplinary procedures. The employees received adequate notice of their impending placement on LWOP, and those who have responded to to state they were sent the notice in error have been advised that information they submitted is being reviewed.

“In short, DOE is in compliance with the law and contracts,” the statement reads.

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