A group of nearly 500 healthcare workers is slated to receive a $10 million payout in a first-of-its-kind settlement challenging their hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The coalition of workers at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois filed their suit in October 2021, alleging the healthcare facility was illegally refusing to grant religious exemptions to the mandate. The July 29 settlement agreement by the state’s Northern District Court means 473 current and former healthcare workers are soon to receive compensation for being denied religious exemptions from the healthcare system’s vaccine requirement.
Liberty Counsel, the legal group representing 13 plaintiffs, said the settlement should “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,” according to a statement from Horatio Mihet, vice president of legal affairs at the group.
Anyone who lost a job due to their inability to comply with the mandate is eligible to receive $25,000, and any of the 13 plaintiffs involved in the suit are eligible for an additional $20,000, meaning they would receive $45,000 in total, said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
Workers who eventually received the vaccine despite raising religious objections would be eligible for around $3,000 in compensation. Final payouts will be dependent on how many workers apply for the money. Additionally, anyone who was fired because of their refusal to get vaccinated based on sincerely held religious beliefs will be eligible for reemployment by the healthcare system.
The agreement also sets aside $2 million for attorneys fees.
U.S. District Judge John Kness, an appointee of former President Donald Trump who presided over the case, was asked to approve the proposed settlement.
The judge appeared to side with the legal group’s claims that the healthcare administration violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when they denied religious accommodations.
Staver signaled in an interview with the Washington Examiner that his legal group’s litigation battles over employees who were denied vaccine exemptions in the private sector are far from over, saying, “We have been working with thousands of employees across the country,” including airline industries and other types of healthcare and private employers.