A small group of Mass General Brigham employees who were either fired or quit over their refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 have asked the US Supreme Court to order the hospital chain to let them back to work while they continue to pursue their suit over their terminations.
The employees were denied such possibly temporary relief by a judge in US District Court in Boston and by the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, also in Boston. Both said the likelihood of their ultimately winning their case were slim. US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor added the public interest weighed heavily on the side of the state's largest hospital network, working to tamp down the Covid-19 pandemic. The Court of Appeals in turn rejected their arguments that their terminations were a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But the employees used many of the same arguments rejected in federal court here in their emergency application with the nation's highest court to get their jobs back immediately - which has yet to be either approved or rejected by the court for consideration.
The Supreme Court application was jointly filed by the employees' Massachusetts lawyer, who also lost a legal battle to try to force the University of Massachusetts to let two shot-averse students return to their campuses, and by Liberty Counsel, a Florida -based firm that specializes in a right-wing view of civil-liberties cases - including another Boston case now before the Supreme Court that involves a man who wants to fly a "Christian" flag in front of City Hall.
They argue, in part:
After putting Applicants under constant pressure to forsake their religious beliefs and physical wellbeing, Respondent has enforced its deadline for Applicants to violate heir sincerely held religious beliefs or place themselves in physical danger by taking a vaccine, and relief cannot wait. By choosing not to violate their sincerely held beliefs or place themselves in physical danger, and losing their jobs as a result, Applicants face the continuing inability to feed their children, the continuing loss of any practical ability to work in their professions, constant potential homelessness, and continuing significant emotional and psychological harm.
Although the Supreme Court takes months to consider cases it agrees to hear, it has a "shadow docket" to issue quick, often unsigned, rulings.
The problem for the Mass General Brigham employees, however, is that the court has already considered a similar case involving health-care workers in Maine, and ruled against their request for a temporary injunction less than a month ago - in a case that had also been brought by Liberty Counsel.
One possible distinction, which the firm raised in its injunction application, is that Maine only granted medical exemptions, not exemptions for religious reasons.
All eight of the Mass General Brigham employees - six of whom lost their jobs, one of whom quit and one of whom got a shot - claimed religious exemptions, either because they professed the shot would alter their God-given DNA, no matter what actual virologists say, or because some of the testing of the vaccines might have involved cell lines derived from aborted fetuses decades ago. Some also claimed medical exemptions, which the hospital denied; in one case, a request from a pregnant woman, whom doctors said would actually be protecting both herself and her unborn child by getting a shot.
The workers claim:
This case presents the issue of an employer’s claiming undue hardship in accommodating Applicants while at the very same time accommodating
other employees. The Court should step in to prevent these blatant Title VII and ADA violations. Failure to do so would result in the de facto removal of an employer’s
burden of showing actual undue hardship, leaving only a lip-service approach to religious and disability accommodation.
Via Doodlemom and SCOTUSblog.