In an important ruling, 500 health care workers in Illinois have won a huge $10.3 million victory against an employer that fired them for refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine, the Liberty Counsel has announced.
“The class action settlement against NorthShore University Health System is on behalf of more than 500 current and former health care workers who were unlawfully discriminated against and denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate,” CBN News reported last Friday.
The settlement was revealed last week in the federal Northern District Court of Illinois.
The classwide lawsuit was spearheaded by the nonprofit Christian-focused Liberty Counsel, which sought to sue NorthShore University Health System for violating its employees’ religious expression.
In a statement, Liberty Counsel Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel Horatio G. Mihet said, “We are very pleased with the historic, $10 million settlement achieved in our class action lawsuit against NorthShore University HealthSystem. The drastic policy change and substantial monetary relief required by the settlement will bring a strong measure of justice to NorthShore’s employees who were callously forced to choose between their conscience and their jobs.”
“This settlement should also serve as a strong warning to employers across the nation that they cannot refuse to accommodate those with sincere religious objections to forced vaccination mandates,” Mihet added.
As part of the settlement agreement, NorthShore will pay $10,337,500 to compensate hundreds of health care employees who were victims of religious discrimination, the group noted.
The ruling also stipulates that NorthShore must change its unconstitutional “no religious accommodations” policy to make it consistent with the law, and to provide religious accommodations in every position. The company will also not be permitted to have particular positions set aside from the ruling and all positions will be open for a religious exemption.
Further, employees who were fired for refusing the vaccine will now be eligible for rehiring and have 90 days after the settlement is approved to re-apply for their jobs at the same seniority as when they left.
Liberty Counsel noted that employees who were fired after being refused a religious exemption for the vaccine will receive about $25,000 from the settlement, and those who took the shot against their will just to keep their job are eligible for a $3,000 payment.
Liberty Counsel Chairman and founder Mat Staver pointed out the historic nature of the settlement.
“This classwide settlement providing compensation and the opportunity to return to work is the first of its kind in the nation involving COVID shot mandates,” Staver noted. “This settlement should be a wake-up call to every employer that did not accommodate or exempt employees who opposed the COVID shots for religious reasons. Let this case be a warning to employers that violated Title VII. It is especially significant and gratifying that this first classwide COVID settlement protects health care workers. Health care workers are heroes who daily give their lives to protect and treat their patients. They are needed now more than ever.”
The case in Illinois is not the first one to go in favor of employees. In September of last year, a New York judge granted a restraining order against hospitals in that state, which wanted to fire upwards of 40,000 health care workers who were leery of the vaccine.
However, most other courts stood in favor of an employer or state’s right to fire employees over the vaccine. For example, like many others, a vaccine-hesitant nurse in Houston, Texas, found herself on the losing end of the argument in June of 2021.
Long into the COVID panic, hospitals and healthcare providers were firing thousands of workers over vaccine refusal. In September of last year, for instance, Novant Health, a North Carolina-based company, fired 175 employees at facilities across four states. And outside of the health care field, companies like Hershey Chocolates, and cable news network CNN were firing employees with abandon.
But the firings had a cost in the health care industry. Once tens of thousands of employees were let go across the country, many states began finding their hospitals so severely understaffed that patient care suffered.
Last August, The New York Times was reporting that the country was facing a “crisis” in nursing as understaffed hospitals were seen leaving patients “at risk.”
The ruling in Illinois, though, is the first crack in this vaccine wall that may signal a trend for more courts to rule against mandates and for individual freedom. People were wronged by these draconian vaccine mandates. But maybe the tide is finally turning.