Illinois health care workers who were fired or otherwise impacted by their hospitals’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate will receive a $10 million settlement after filing a lawsuit challenging the rule.
“Let this case be a warning to employers that violated Title VII,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the group behind the lawsuit, told the Washington Examiner. “It is especially significant and gratifying that this first classwide COVID settlement protects healthcare workers.”
The case centers around workers at NorthShore University HealthSystem, who filed a lawsuit in October 2021 claiming their employer illegally refused to grant any religious exemptions to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The settlement approved in the Illinois Northern District Court will result in 473 employees of the system becoming eligible for compensation for being denied a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate, with any of those fired as a result of the rules being eligible for $25,000. The 13 plaintiffs involved in the suit will be eligible for an additional $20,000, while those who complied with the mandate to keep their jobs despite having religious objections will be eligible for $3,000.
U.S. District Judge John Kness, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, approved the settlement and appeared to side with Liberty Council’s claim that the mandate violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Anyone fired because of their refusal to get the jab will also be eligible for reemployment in the system.
Liberty Counsel Vice President of Legal Affairs Horatio Mihet said in a statement that 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.”
Staver said his group is not just limiting the battle over mandates to the Illinois health care workers, telling the Washington Examiner that Liberty Counsel is working for private sector employees in industries such as airlines and other health care systems.
“We have been working with thousands of employees across the country,” he said. “Many of them face the same jab-or-job mandate that is that issue in NorthShore.”