Northshore University Healthsystem has agreed to pay $10.3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by employees who alleged that the hospital system could not make them their jobs after objecting to receiving COVID-19 vaccines for religious reasons. Will keep
Fourteen workers — including nurses, a pharmacy technician and a senior applications analyst all named anonymously in the lawsuit — sued Northshore in October, alleging that Northshore refused to grant them a right exemption from the mandate that all of its workers. Workers are vaccinated.
Northshore is not admitting any wrongdoing as part of the proposed settlement agreement, which was filed Friday in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The agreement still has to be approved by a judge.
As part of the agreement, Northshore is agreeing to rehire workers who were fired for refusing vaccinations for religious reasons.
Northshore, like other hospital systems, will still require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but, as part of the settlement, it is changing its exemption policy. Going forward, it will review individual workers’ requests for religious exemptions, and if those exemptions are approved, Northshore will work to accommodate them regardless of their status.
“We continue to support the system-wide, evidence-based vaccination needs for everyone working at Northshore – Edward-Elmhurst Health and our team members to help keep our communities safe,” Northshore said in a statement Monday. Thank you for helping keep.”
In a news release the organization representing workers hailed the settlement as a “historic, first-of-its-kind class action settlement” against a private employer that denied hundreds of religious exemption requests for COVID-19 shots . The workers are represented by Liberty Council, which describes itself as a Christian ministry advocating for religious freedom.
Liberty Council’s Vice President of Legal Affairs Horatio G. “The drastic policy changes and substantial monetary relief required by the decision will bring about a stronger measure of justice for Northshore employees, who were forced to choose between their conscience and their jobs,” Miheit said. and chief litigation attorney, in the news release. “The agreement should also serve as a stern warning to employers across the country that they cannot refuse to accommodate people with serious religious objections to the forced vaccination mandate.”
Northshore estimates that according to the proposed settlement agreement, about 523 of its workers were denied religious exemptions for the vaccine mandate between July 1, 2021, and January 1 of this year. Of those 523, about 204 received vaccines after being denied exemption and 269 were terminated or resigned.
Lawyers and workers representing Northshore asked the court to allow the agreement to apply to all Northshore workers who were fired or resigned or who were vaccinated because they were exempt from religious exemptions. was denied.
If the settlement agreement and the request for it to cover more than 500 workers is approved, workers who were fired or resigned could each receive about $25,000, and employees who were fired or resigned. received vaccines after denying their religious exemption requests, they could get around $3,000. Freedom Consultant. The 13 main plaintiffs in the lawsuit will each receive an additional $20,000. One of the original plaintiffs dropped out of the case because the exemption was granted.
In some cases, workers said they didn’t want vaccines because of their association with aborted fetuses. No COVID-19 vaccine in the US contains embryonic cells. But cell lines derived from two abortions performed decades ago were used in early testing or development of vaccines, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Other religious authorities, including the Vatican, consider the use of vaccines to be morally acceptable.
Activists in the Northshore case alleged, at one point, that Northshore had said it would deny any exemptions based on “abortive embryonic cell lines”. The workers alleged that Northshore later said it would offer several exemptions, but would only allow them to work remotely.
The workers said they were prepared to test regularly for COVID-19, wear masks and report if they had symptoms instead of being vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers is still ubiquitous in hospital systems.
In January, the US Supreme Court upheld a federal requirement that hospitals across the US have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their workers, unless those workers are exempt for medical or religious reasons.
Under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, employees can ask to be exempt from vaccination requirements because of conscientious religious beliefs or disabilities. But employers are not required to give those exemptions if a non-vaccinated person would pose a direct danger to others in the workplace, or if accommodating them would be an undue burden.
Illinois still requires health care workers to be vaccinated, but in July, government JB Pritzker’s administration relaxed testing rules for people who were not fully vaccinated.
Until that time, Illinois health care workers who had not been fully vaccinated had to be tested weekly for COVID-19. Now, with the exception of workers in long-term care facilities, those workers are only to be tested weekly if they are in high coronavirus transmission counties, as determined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.