State Watch

180 Minnesota health care workers sue employers to block vaccine mandates

A health care worker prepares a vaccine for administration at a vaccination clinic
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More than 180 Minnesota health care workers filed a lawsuit against their employers on Monday in an attempt to block the enforcement of coronavirus vaccine mandates in their facilities.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of unnamed plaintiffs, requests an injunction, contending that such policies are a breach of religious freedom and other laws on both the state and federal level.

The lawsuit names around 24 health institutions and federal health officials as defendants, including the Mayo Clinic, Fairview Health Services, University of Minnesota Physicians and Regions Hospital.

One lawyer representing the plaintiffs told the Star Tribune that his clients wish to remain anonymous because there is “pressure on getting vaccinated.” 

The lawsuit comes after President Biden announced a vaccine mandate for the more than 17 million health care workers who are employed at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the hospitals are enforcing the vaccine requirements on all workers — including those with religious objections and others who already had the virus — in an attempt to increase inoculation statistics and in turn receive more money in federal subsidies.

“Plaintiffs’ employers are placing a substantial burden on their employees not to practice their religious-based objection to the COVID-19 vaccination or live under the threat of having their religious exemption withdrawn at any time,” the lawsuit says.

Gregory Erickson, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, said the health care workers who signed on to the lawsuit include individuals with religious worries, those who are pregnant and young individuals who believe “it’s a coin flip whether they’re in worse shape with COVID or the vaccine,” according to the Star Tribune.

Erickson said he is hoping that the judge issues an injunction quickly, as vaccine mandate deadlines are inching closer.

He also said that if some health care workers ultimately decide to leave their jobs because of the mandate, it will deepen the “critical shortage of nurses in this country right now.”

“If people thought health care was being delayed from COVID, that’s like a soft summer rain compared to what’s going to happen when you fire all these people,” he added.

The Minnesota lawsuit is one of a number of legal challenges that have been made by health care workers in response to vaccine mandates.

Earlier this month, roughly 50 health care employees sued a Detroit hospital system because of its requirement for all workers to be inoculated against COVID-19. The lawsuit argued that the policy unconstitutionally infringed on a person’s bodily autonomy.

Ginger Plumbo, communications manager at Mayo Clinic, told The Hill in a statement that the facility is reviewing allegations but stands by its vaccine policy, calling it an appropriate way to protect its workers and the public.

“Mayo Clinic is reviewing the allegations, but stands by its vaccination program as the appropriate way to protect the public and the vast majority of Mayo’s workforce,” Mayo Clinic said.

She said as of Wednesday, 98 percent of the physicians at Mayo Clinic are vaccinated, and more than 87 percent of the overall staff have been inoculated.

Plumbo pointed to vaccinations as “the best tool for preventing serious illness and hospitalization, and to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

“Compliance with the staff vaccination program is required, and participation will be enforced separately from the new mandatory vaccination program that Mayo Clinic is preparing to implement in the coming weeks,” she added.

The Hill reached out to Erickson for more information, and to a number of Minnesota hospitals included in the lawsuit.

—Updated Thursday at 4:35 p.m.

Tags Biden Vaccine mandate Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the United States COVID-19 vaccine Joe Biden mayo clinic Minnesota vaccine mandate
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