The list of employees suing Mass General Brigham over their dismissals for refusing to get Covid-19 shots expanded to 224 yesterday - which includes four doctors - but the earliest the case could come to trial is sometime in 2023, under a schedule set yesterday by the judge presiding over the case.
The eight original employees who had sued over their dismissals following a Nov. 5 deadline had sought an emergency order from Saylor to get them their jobs back while the case continued. US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor denied the request, as did a federal appeals court. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
The employees, a small percentage of the hospital networks' roughly 80,000 workers, are seeking both their jobs back and monetary damages to be determined at trial - if the case gets that far. One of the last items on Saylor's schedule is for the two sides to file possible motions for "summary judgment" - to decide whether to let the case go before a jury.
Among the employees named in the suit are Dr. James Wines, a psychiatrist; Dr. Carlos Duran, a pediatric critical-care specialist; Dr. Sarah Shulman, a neonatologist; and Dr. Maria Rupnick, a cardiologist. Dr. Elizabeth Bigger, who was one of the original eight employees who sued, has dropped out of the case. All four doctors claimed religious reasons for not wanting the shots; one also said he had a disability that would preclude him getting them.
The amended complaint, filed yesterday, claims both medical and religious reasons for rejecting Mass General Brigham's demands to get the shots and say the hospital unfairly rejected their exception requests and failed to give them a way to appeal decisions of the two panels the hospital system set up to judge requests for exemptions. Of the 224 employees, 204 sought religious exemptions:
These plaintiffs have sincerely held religious beliefs, rooted in Biblical Scripture and received by them through prayer.
Plaintiffs seek to make daily decisions, including those regarding vaccination and other medical decisions, through prayer and by reading the Bible.
These sincerely held and prayerfully developed religious beliefs preclude plaintiffs from taking the COVID-19 vaccines.For plaintiffs to disobey sincerely held religious beliefs would violate their conscience. See John 14:15 (NIV): "If you love me, keep my commands," Acts 5:29 (KJV) "...We ought to obey God rather than men.”
They also claim the hospital failed to offer the workers accommodations that would let them continue working even under Covid-19 protocols such as social distancing, mask wearing and frequent testing, in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. In its ruling denying their request for an emergency order to force the hospital to rehire them immediately, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said that law exempts firings of employees who cannot carry out their jobs, in this case, by violating a hospital requirement that they not "pose a direct threat to patients" by dealing with them while unvaccinated.