“You’re talking about people who held the hand of people dying of COVID,” said Minneapolis attorney Greg Erickson, who filed the case. “These folks risked their lives to help these patients and now they’re being terminated because their religious beliefs won’t allow them to take the vaccine? It’s really sad.”
The defendants were being served with court papers on Tuesday morning. Judges in state and federal courts elsewhere have split on how much latitude employees are entitled to around vaccination.
The approximately 190 plaintiffs in the Minnesota case are all listed under pseudonyms out of what they say is fear of employer retaliation or public harassment.
In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could enact vaccine requirements to protect public health. That precedent has been cited by defendants in similar lawsuits filed in recent months.
The lawsuit was filed late Monday in U.S. District Court against federal health officials and about 20 Minnesota health care providers that operate hospitals and clinics throughout the state. It contends that the lack of alternatives to vaccination infringes on the rights of those employees, who range from doctors and nurses to respiratory therapists and technicians.
It’s one of several lawsuits filed over vaccine mandates across the country against government entities, employers or both. Their filings seek a quick hearing on a temporary injunction to bar any terminations or steps to put unvaccinated health workers on unpaid leave while the case plays out.
“Instead of being hailed as heroes now, they are chastised and ridiculed as ‘antivaxxers’ or worse,” the lawsuit reads.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced the mandate that will require all workers in most health settings to be vaccinated, although most of the estimated 17 million covered by the directive have been. The rule will become effective once the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issues final language, which is expected to occur by the middle of October.
Some hospitals and clinics have separate requirements, which have already taken effect. In their filing, several health workers are listed as having had COVID-19 already, which they say offer them natural immunity. Others say they aren’t comfortable taking the available vaccines or have a religious objection.
They argue they should be allowed to instead take regular COVID-19 tests instead or be transferred into roles that don’t put them in contact with patients or coworkers. You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.
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