Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit religious freedom organization, landed a massive win this past Summer against Chicago-based NorthShore University Health System. Employees sued the company over denied vaccine exemptions. Vaccine mandates were instituted by the Hospital group that left no room for employees’ religious convictions.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Kness approved the $10 million dollar settlement terms. NorthShore team members who submitted requests for religious exemption between July 1, 2021, and January 1, 2022, but were denied and either took a vaccine to avoid termination or were fired or resigned due to their religious objections will be covered in the class action settlement.
Health care workers can be seen here protesting against NorthShore University Health Systems vaccine mandate outside Evanston, Ill.
Employees who were fired for refusing to comply will be able to reapply for their jobs within the next 90 days and will not lose their seniority level. Liberty Counsel also said the employees would be compensated 20k each and receive their funds in the next 60 days.
More than 500 current and former healthcare workers won their suit and will be awarded $10,337,500 in the settlement agreement. This is the first U.S. settlement of its kind. Likely the first in a long list of lawsuit wins to come.
Liberty Counsel filed suit on behalf of the employees, alleging they were discriminated against because they were denied religious exemptions from the company’s vaccine mandate; they stated;
This is the “first-of-its-kind class action settlement against a private employer who unlawfully denied hundreds of religious exemption requests to COVID-19 shots,” Liberty Counsel said.
Founder and chairman Mat Staver added it “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.”
Hopefully, the lawsuit was eye-opening for North Shore University Health, which opted to change its policies. Some employees who were discriminated against have already been re-hired.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Those who refused the vaccine, utilizing a religious exemption, and were fired, as a result, found that the Civil Rights Act provided a layer of protection. Legal protection ensured their right to bodily autonomy and will likely evoke a different response from NorthShore in the future.