Health Care Workers Denied Religious Exemption From COVID Vaccine Mandate Sue for Damages

State   |   Liberty Counsel   |   Dec 14, 2021   |   1:50PM   |   Springfield, Illinois

Liberty Counsel will ask the federal District Court of Illinois to certify the entire class of health care workers and will seek damages on behalf of those employees who have been unlawfully discriminated against and denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate by NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Liberty Counsel asked the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene before the appeal is decided to prevent irreparable harm to NorthShore employees. Even though the Seventh Circuit denied the injunction pending appeal asking for emergency relief, the court granted the motion to expedite the appeal. This denial does not affect the merits of the case. In fact, on November 30, Judge John F. Kness said the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on Title VII and the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

In a 27-page decision, Judge Kness stated that NorthShore employees who prevail against NorthShore for its denial of religious exemptions and accommodations will be able to recover money damages including backpay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees, and several other forms of damages. Since full compensation is available to those who win against NorthShore, the court concludes that the harms they are facing now are not “irreparable,” as they can be repaired through money damages.

NorthShore has already terminated many of those employees with sincere religious objections to its “Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy” by removing them from work schedules, including those health care workers whose appeals were still pending. 

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NorthShore previously granted exemptions for some employees but then denied them in mid-September. Those denials were either without explanation or because the requests failed to meet some so-called “evidence-based criteria” that NorthShore never provided the employees in advance. NorthShore then only gave employees three business days to file an appeal without stating what was missing in the original application. In that appeal, NorthShore also apparently judged the validity of their religious beliefs by requiring them to include their entire vaccination history since the age of eighteen. However, NorthShore never requested employees to provide prior vaccine information in their initial exemption requests.

After denying these employees, NorthShore also changed its exemption form to include a warning that all religious objections based on “aborted fetal cell lines, stem cells, tissue or derivative materials will result in denials.” NorthShore is falsely deceptive in that form by stating that the COVID-19 injections have no link to aborted fetal cell lines and refuting the religious beliefs of health care workers who object to the undeniable connection of the injections to aborted fetal cell lines.

Illinois law dictates that employees at NorthShore University HealthSystem have the fundamental right to determine what medical care to accept and refuse. In fact, Illinois has a Health Care Right of Conscience Act that provides strong protection to all residents against discrimination based on health care choices. It states: “It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any person in any manner, including but not limited to, licensing, hiring, promotion, or any other privileges, because of such person’s conscientious refusal to receive, obtain, accept or participate in any way in any particular form of health care services contrary to his or her conscience” (emphasis added).

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “NorthShore University HealthSystem cannot ignore state and federal law and terminate employees whose sincere religious beliefs prohibit them from receiving these COVID shots. Employees who submitted religious exemption requests and have been terminated are likely to prevail for damages under Title VII.”