On December 19th a court in the United States granted approval for a settlement worth millions for people who were terminated from their jobs at a healthcare institution in Illinois for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The $10.3 million compensation will be provided to approximately 500 workers who were either terminated or, after having their exemption applications denied, received a COVID-19 vaccine. The preliminary version of the settlement was announced in July.
According to attorneys for Liberty Counsel & NorthShore University Healthsystem, United States District Judge John Kness, who was appointed to his position by President Trump and is supervising the case filed by the employees, gave his verbal consent for the settlement at a hearing. Kness is going to issue a written ruling sometime in the next week.
NorthShore wrote in a brief statement that was emailed to The Epoch Times after Kness’s approval, “We are pleased with the Court’s approval of a supportive resolution to this matter but instead continue to prioritize the safety and health of our patients and team members.” Kness’s ruling came after NorthShore had already received Kness’s approval.
In a statement, Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs, Harry Mihet, said that the organization was “pleased to finally get the court’s final approval of this classwide agreement for such health care workers who’d been unlawfully discriminated against it and denied religious exemptions from the COVID volley mandate.” The settlement was for healthcare workers who were denied religious exemptions from COVID shot mandate.
“This case should create a precedent for other businesses who have broken the law by refusing religious exemptions for their workers,” he added. “This case should set a precedence for other employers who have violated the law.”
The 13 listed plaintiffs in the lawsuit were being represented in court by Liberty Counsel, a legal organization that specializes in bringing suits alleging religious discrimination. After reaching a preliminary settlement agreement, the group was able to successfully win class certification for all employees who had been denied religious exemptions. It was initially believed that there were 499 current and former employees in this group, but that number increased to at least 519 after the agreement.
As of the 12th of December, there were 493 class members who had filed claims in order to receive a portion of the settlement.
Every worker who was terminated is eligible to earn $24,225 in compensation. Every employee who has stayed with the firm will be eligible to earn $3,725.
The identified plaintiffs stand to collect an additional monetary award of $20,000. According to a recent filing, those payments, which are being referred to as service awards, would provide compensation to the plaintiffs for their assistance in advising on court filings, gathering documents, or serving as lead plaintiffs “in a sensitive case involving individual health choices as well as religious beliefs over such a matter of intense public discussion, even when it was unsure whether they would have to reveal their identities to the public.” These plaintiffs helped serve as lead plaintiffs “in a sensitive lawsuit concerning personal health choices as well as religious beliefs over a
The court was asked to dismiss the objections raised by three former employees since they were mostly based on the salary that the workers believed they were promised after they were let go from their jobs. Both sides of the dispute wanted the judge to do so.
One of the objectors, Marzena Novak, said that the real amount of money she lost due to being dismissed and not receiving paid was close to $140000.
“Although the expected $25,000 is helpful and expected to be received, it does not come close to the real losses incurred by people whom they treated so cruelly,” wrote Novak. “Despite the fact that it is helpful and likely to be welcomed, it does not come near to the actual losses.”
In 2021, NorthShore followed the lead of many other healthcare organizations and required all workers to get vaccinations.
NorthShore informed its employees that they may submit a request for a religious exemption that used a form that said the worker in issue was expected to offer “an explanation of my genuinely held religious principle and practice that leads my opposition to get the mandatory immunization.” The candidates were given clear instructions from Northshore to avoid providing long responses.
According to the documents filed by the plaintiffs, NorthShore first granted some of the exemption requests, but subsequently changed its judgment and refused “all or substantially all of them.” According to the officials, the workers did not demonstrate that they were entitled to a religious exemption as required.
Employees who want a second opinion were informed that they needed to submit an appeal that included their full immunization record dating back to the age of 18. Following this, NorthShore said that any religious objection based on “aborted fetal cell lines, stem cells, tissues, or derivative materials” would be met with rejections since such products were “not in NorthShore delivered vaccinations.” All of the COVID-19 vaccinations that are now on the market in the United States have connections to cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue.
Another of the plaintiffs said that at one time, her boss told her that “we are not approving anybody” for exemptions, despite the fact that at least five people were granted exemptions.
According to one of the filings, NorthShore “instead of engaging Plaintiffs in good conscience, refused Plaintiffs’ religious exemption petitions en masse, delivering nothing more than copy and paste replies, notifying them that they lacked ‘evidence-based criteria,’ whatever that means.” “NorthShore had no way of knowing whether an appropriate accommodation might have been appropriate because it failed to engage any of the Plaintiffs and also its numerous employees who had religious objections in good faith. This left NorthShore with no way to know whether an accommodation could have been made.” The only reply that the plaintiffs and the employees of NorthShore got were blanket rejections that applied to all situations.
The plaintiffs claimed that the treatment violated both the Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of the “right of conscience” and requires employers to treat workers similarly. The Civil Rights Act requires employers to treat workers similarly.
NorthShore has continually disputed allegations that the company broke the law.
The system also stated that it was “an undue hardship” to let unvaccinated staff work at NorthShore and that “it initially denied numerous exemption requests and that on appeal it reconsidered some decisions or chose not to challenge that the requests had been made based on sincerely held religious beliefs.” The system also stated that it reconsidered some decisions and chose not to challenge the fact that the requests have all been made based on sincerely held religious beliefs.