A class action lawsuit filed by health care workers in the United States over an Illinois University Covid-19 vaccine mandate has reached a settlement.
The ‘first-of-its-kind’ settlement was filed in the Federal Northern District Court of Illinois on Friday, 29 July 2022.
The matter began last October and saw the plaintiff’s not-for-profit representation, Liberty Counsel, issue a letter of demand to Chicago-based NorthShore University Health System.
Demanding that they accommodate its impacted workers based on religious exemption concerning its ‘Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccination Policy.’
When NorthShore failed to amend its policy, Liberty Counsel filed the class-action suit.
In the court filing by employees of NorthShore, it was alleged that their employer was discriminatory in their denial of religious exemptions concerning the company’s vaccine mandate.
A representative of Liberty Counsel said, “If NorthShore had agreed then to follow the law and grant religious exemptions, the matter would have been quickly resolved, and it would have cost it nothing.”
As a result of the settlement, NorthShore has agreed to pay a total of $10,337,500 to the 500 former and current health care workers impacted by its mandated vaccination policy.
Employees who were terminated or forced to resign will also have the opportunity to be reinstated within 90 days of the court’s final approval of the settlement.
As part of the settlement terms, NorthShore will also be required to amend its policy to include exemptions based on religious objection.
According to an Illinois news publication, The Centre Square employees who file ‘valid and timely claims’ will receive varied settlement payments.
Employees terminated or forced to resign will receive around $25,000 each. Employees who held religious objections but were ‘vaccinated under duress’ to maintain their jobs are estimated to receive approximately $3,000 each. Thirteen of the lead plaintiffs in the class action suit will also receive an additional payment of $20,000 each.
Following the settlement, Liberty Counsel said, “This is the first-of-its-kind class action settlement against a private employer who unlawfully denied hundreds of religious exemption requests to Covid-19 shots.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Counsel, said, “It should be a wake-up call to every employer that did not accommodate or exempt employees who opposed the covid shots for religious reasons. Let this case be a warning to employers that violated Title VII,” which prohibits discrimination by an employer based on race, colour, religion, sex, and national origin under the Civil Rights Act.
Horatio G. Mihet, Liberty Counsels VP of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel, said, “This drastic policy change and substantial monetary relief required by the settlement will bring a strong measure of justice to NorthShore’s employees who were callously forced to choose between their conscience and their jobs.
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.”