Healthcare workers at NorthShore University Health System in Illinois are expected to receive $10.3 million in a “first-of-its-kind” class action settlement over the hospital’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, the Washington Examiner reported Monday.
The lawsuit was brought by 13 employees because the hospital “unlawfully discriminated against and denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate, according to Liberty Counsel, which represented the employees. Liberty Counsel says it works to advance “religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family through strategic litigation.”
The state’s Northern District Court reached a settlement agreement on July 29, meaning NorthShore will compensate roughly 500 health care employees “who were victims of religious discrimination, and who were punished for their religious beliefs against taking an injection associated with aborted fetal cells,” Liberty Counsel stated.
“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,” added Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel.
The federal district court must approve the settlement, and NorthShore employees who were denied religious exemptions will have the opportunity to comment, object, request to opt out, or submit a claim. Liberty Counsel estimates that employees who were fired or resigned because of their religious refusal to receive a coronavirus vaccination will receive $25,000 each. Employees who say they were forced to get vaccinated against their religious beliefs to keep from being fired will receive roughly $3,000 each.
The 13 lead plaintiffs are expected to receive an additional $20,000 each for leading the class action lawsuit against NorthShore. Liberty Counsel will receive 20 percent of the settlement sum.
The hospital will also have to change its “no religious accommodations” policy for all employees. Employees who were fired over their religious refusal may also be able to get their jobs back if they apply within 90 days of settlement approval, and “they will retain their previous seniority level.”
Liberty Counsel said if NorthShore had agreed to grant religious exemptions after they sent a demand letter on behalf of healthcare workers in October 2021, “the matter would have been quickly resolved and would have cost it nothing.”
“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. 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,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
“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,” Staver continued.
The case is Doe 1, et al v. NorthShore University HealthSystem, No. 1:21-cv-5683 in the the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.