(The Center Square) – More than 180 Minnesota health care workers spanning statewide hospital systems filed a federal lawsuit over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, seeking an injunction to block the upcoming rule.
The lawsuit follows weeks after President Joe Biden announced a vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 employees and facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare. Defendants named include St. Mary’s Duluth, University Of Minnesota Physicians; Mayo Clinic; North Memorial Health Care; Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital; St. Luke’s Hospital Of Duluth; and Minneapolis Radiation Oncology.
None of the health care workers are named in the lawsuit, likely fearing employer retribution. The lawsuit alleges that health care systems violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by following the vaccine mandate.
Plaintiffs range from those who have contracted COVID-19 and now have antibodies, those who currently have a religious exemption, those with a pending religious exemption, and pregnant employees.
The suit alleges hospital systems want to force vaccinations to boost federal funding “[R]egardless of religious or other objections, Minnesota state law, or the immunity status of employees who may have already had Covid-19 and who therefore possess natural immunity superior to the immunity conferred by the vaccines.”
The lawsuit says the vaccine mandate violates Minn. Stat. § 12.39, which states that “individuals have a fundamental right to refuse medical treatment, testing, physical or mental examination, vaccination, participation in experimental procedures and protocols …”
The statute also states that “before performing … vaccination of an individual … a health care provider shall notify the individual of the right to refuse the … vaccination …”
After being hailed as heroes last year, now the workers want to choose whether to take the vaccine.
“The same ‘front line’ health care workers hailed as heroes by the media for treating patients before vaccines were available, and even for months after the vaccines became available, including the Plaintiff employees herein, are now vilified by the media as pariahs who must be set apart from society until they are shamed, threatened, or now mandated into vaccinating,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs’ attorney said health care workers should be given a choice.
“You’re talking about people who held the hand of people dying of COVID,” attorney Greg Erickson told Minnesota Public Radio. “These folks risked their lives to help these patients and now they’re being terminated because their religious beliefs won’t allow them to take the vaccine? It’s really sad.”