Fourteen healthcare workers sued NorthShore University HealthSystem after they were denied religious exemptions for the vaccinations.
(Photo: Vincent, Adobe Stock)
EVANSTON, Ill. — The NorthShore University HealthSystem has agreed to pay $10.3 million to settle a class action lawsuit over its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
More than a dozen healthcare workers sued the system after they were denied religious exemptions for the vaccinations, according to CBS News. Attorneys for the employees said the settlement of the federal rights lawsuit, which was filed in October 2021, is “historic” and the “first of its kind.”
“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,” said Horatio Mihet, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “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.”
The 14 employees, identified as Jane Does one through 14 in court documents, include 11 nurses, a pharmacy technician, a patient access representative, and a senior application analyst.
Citing the use of fetal tissue in medical research, the suit alleged the system’s requirement that its 17,000 employees get vaccinated discriminated against them because of their religious beliefs. One of the employees was granted a religious accommodation and kept her job while the other 13 have since left.
NorthShore agreed to establish a $10,337,500 fund, which will provide compensation to 523 current or former employees who were denied religious exemptions between July 2021 and January 2022. The employees are eligible for payouts whether they received a vaccine, quit because of it, or were fired for declining, Patch.com reports.
NorthShore also agreed to revise its vaccination policy and “maintain a step-by-step review process for requests for religious exemptions and accommodations.”
“We continue to support system-wide, evidence-based vaccination requirements for everyone who works at NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health and thank our team members for helping to keep our communities safe,” NorthShore Public Relations Director Colette Urban told Patch. “The settlement reflects implementation of a new system-wide vaccine policy which will include accommodation for team members with approved exemptions, including former employees who are rehired.”
Approximately 269 people resigned or were fired due to the requirement while 204 received the vaccine after their religious exemptions were denied. The employees who agreed to get vaccinated despite their religious objections may be eligible to receive $3,000 while those who were terminated could get $25,000.
Employees who were terminated because of their refusal will be eligible for rehire at their previous level of seniority if they apply within three months of the settlement’s approval. The settlement still needs to be approved by a federal judge.