A Superior Court judge last week tossed the City of San Francisco’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 21 firefighters who were fired for not complying with the city’s vaccine mandate. 

According to the original complaint filed in June by attorney Heather Gibson, all firefighters were in good standing with the city and the San Francisco Fire Department right up until October 13, 2021, the deadline to get the COVID-19 injections. After that date, the firefighters “were placed on leave, and either constructively terminated and forced to retire, or ‘Commission Hearings’ were set with the goal of terminating those Plaintiffs who elected not to retire.” 

Furthermore, the vaccine mandate stated that “Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent transmission and limit Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths,” even though it had become known as early as June 2021 that the injections did not prevent transmission, removing any legitimacy for the mandate. 

But the vaccine mandate remained in place at the order of San Francisco Fire Department Chief Jeanine Nicholson who, according to the complaint, contracted COVID-19 in December of 2021, after the 100% vaccination policy went into effect, along with approximately 140 other San Francisco firefighters who had been fully “vaccinated”. Ironically, and despite these objective facts, Fire Commission President Katherine Feinstein said she would rather drive herself to the hospital than be saved by an unvaccinated firefighter. 

The firefighters brought nine causes of action in their complaint against the city, including violation of religious freedom, violation of bodily autonomy and privacy guaranteed by the California Constitution, violation of due process, retaliation and harassment.  

The eighth cause of action, which accuses the city and fire department of constructive discharge, alleges that the city made working conditions so intolerable for eight of the unvaccinated firefighters that they were forced to resign. This included posing degrading and invasive questions about the firefighters’ religious beliefs and practices and “constant harassment from superiors as well as other firefighters that was condoned and encouraged” by the city. Some of the higher-ups claimed that the firefighters’ religious beliefs made them ‘conspiracy theorists’ and made “other unusually aggravated and condescending remarks,” which included the claim that the firefighters’ religious beliefs “are only held by ‘fat’ and ‘white’ people.” Other firefighters noticed yellow stars that had been placed on unvaccinated employees’ lockers. 

The city unsuccessfully tried to dismiss this and other causes of action. Regarding the issue of privacy, for example, the California Constitution guarantees “a person of adult years” a legally protected privacy interest “in the exercise of control over his own body, to determine whether or not to submit to lawful medical treatment.” In its attempt to dismiss this challenge, the city claimed that the firefighters had the right to decline the vaccine and “seek employment elsewhere.” 

But in his ruling, Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr called the city’s conduct “coercive enough” to dismiss the city’s claim. Judge Ulmer also found the firefighters’ other causes of action to be valid and has granted their request for a jury trial. 

“This is a small step forward in the fight for freedom and bodily integrity in California,” attorney Gibson told America’s Frontline News. “There may yet be hope for objective facts and rationality to determine appropriate government action, even in San Francisco.”