Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem agreed Friday to pay out a $10.3 million settlement to 500 current and former healthcare workers who opposed the company's Covid vaccine mandate on religious grounds.
The Ashe Post & Times reports that hundreds of workers who claimed religious liberty exemptions were fired for not complying with the company's vaccination policies. Liberty Counsel, a Christian ministry built around legal defense, took up the employees' case and took the Illinois hospital system to court in a class action lawsuit.
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel said, "This classwide settlement providing compensation and the opportunity to return to work is the first of its kind in the nation involving Covid shot mandates. This settlement should be a wake-up call to every employer that did not accommodate or exempt employees who opposed the Covid shots for religious reasons."
According to The Defender, most plaintiffs cited their personal reluctance to take an injection of a vaccine that was developed in part from stem cell biology.
Court documents show that NorthShore denied religious exemption to roughly 523 employees between July 1, 2021 and January 1, 2022.
A total of 204 of those reluctantly took the vaccine while 269 were terminated or quit. The settlement awards roughly $25,000 to each employee who left the company and makes them all eligible for rehire to the exact positions they previously occupied.
Employees who took the shot despite their reservations and protest are to be awarded $3,000 each with NorthShore agreeing to change its vaccine policy to allow for religious accommodations.
"Health care workers are heroes who daily give their lives to protect and treat their patients. They are needed now more than ever," Staver said of the religious healthcare employees. He described the victory as a "historic, first-of-its-kind class action settlement."
NorthShore University HealthSystem employs over 10,000 people and is made up of a total of six hospitals. The settlement was filed in the federal Northern District Court of Illinois and still must be approved by the court.
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