Illinois-based NorthShore University HealthSystem has agreed to a $10.3 million settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by healthcare workers who were fired or impacted by the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

This settlement marks the first classwide lawsuit for healthcare workers over a COVID vaccine mandate and will result in 473 employees becoming eligible for compensation.

The lawsuit was filed by Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit Christian organization, on behalf of the employees who were denied a religious exemption for the vaccine mandate.

Liberty Counsel estimates that employees who were fired or quit will be eligible for $25,000 each, and the original 13 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit will be eligible for $20,000 on top of that, while those who complied with the mandate despite their religious objections will be eligible for $3,000.

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Liberty Counsel’s Vice President of Legal Affairs, Horatio Mihet, said, “The 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.”

Mihet added that this 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.”

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As part of the settlement agreement, NorthShore will change its policy to allow unvaccinated employees to work if they have an approved religious exemption, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, employees who were let go because they refused the vaccine on the grounds of religious beliefs are now eligible to be brought back.

Those who wish to be rehired can apply for positions at their previously held seniority level within 90 days of the court approving the final settlement – which it has yet to do.

In response to this settlement, NorthShore’s director of PR, Colette Urban, gave a statement saying, “We continue to support system-wide, evidence-based vaccination requirements for everyone who works at NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health, and thank our team members for helping to keep our communities safe.”

“The settlement reflects implementation of a new system-wide vaccine policy which will include accommodation for team members with approved exemptions, including former employees who are rehired,” added Urban.

“Let this case be a warning to employers that violated Title VII,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “It is especially significant and gratifying that this first classwide COVID settlement protects healthcare workers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

Staver also revealed that Liberty Counsel is working for private sector employees in industries besides health care, saying, “We have been working with thousands of employees across the country. Many of them face the same jab-or-job mandate that is that issue in NorthShore.”

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