No Preliminary Injunction for Health Care Workers Seeking Religious Exemption from Vaccine Mandate
From Doe 1 v. Northshore Univ. Healthsystem, decided yesterday by Judge John F. Kness (N.D. Ill.):
A group of hospital workers face termination for their refusal, on religious grounds, to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease…. Plaintiffs registered religious objections to receiving any of the available COVID-19 vaccines because, Plaintiffs say, the vaccines were developed using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. Plaintiffs offered NorthShore an alternative: in lieu of becoming vaccinated, Plaintiffs would instead submit to full-time masking and weekly COVID-19 testing. But NorthShore insisted that Plaintiffs either get vaccinated or find work elsewhere.
Plaintiffs now seek a judicial order preventing NorthShore from firing them based on their unvaccinated status. According to Plaintiffs, NorthShore’s policy violates … Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ….
[A]lthough Plaintiffs have demonstrated some likelihood of success on the merits of their Title VII claim—employers are required to make reasonable accommodations of religious practices and views—Plaintiffs cannot meet the additional prerequisites for preliminary injunctive relief of showing irreparable harm. Put another way, if Plaintiffs succeed at trial, their damages can be fully compensated through the traditional legal remedy of a damages award. Because that remedy is available, the Court cannot lawfully enter a preliminary injunction….
To make out a prima facie case of religious discrimination under Title VII “based on an employer’s failure to provide reasonable accommodation, a plaintiff ‘must show that the observance or practice conflicting with an employment requirement is religious in nature, that she called the religious observance or practice to her employer’s attention, and that the religious observance or practice was the basis for her discharge or other discriminatory treatment.'” … Title VII’s reasonable-accommodation requirement is meant “to assure the individual additional opportunity to observe religious p
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