A proposed class of employees has filed a complaint and request for a temporary restraining order against healthcare system Ascension Health concerning the defendant’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs will be suspended without pay on Friday if no action is taken. The matter was filed in the Southern District of Indiana on Monday.
The employees argue that Ascension’s vaccine mandate violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because their religious exemption requests were denied; if they are not vaccinated by January 22, the company will consider them as having resigned. The plaintiffs argue that Ascension’s reasoning that granting the religious exemptions would increase risk to workplace and patient safety is legally unsound.
The plaintiffs argued that the failure to grant exemptions is precontextual and inconsistent with the healthcare system’s own policies, which purportedly permit unvaccinated employees to care for patients if sufficiently protected. They also argue that the allowance of medical exemptions is further evidence of the pretext.
The case specifically brings three Title VII allegations, one for retaliation, one for unlawful discharge, and one for discrimination. The complaint was brought by five named plaintiffs and also seeks certification of two subclasses – one representing employees who sought religious exemptions and had COVID-19 antibodies (due to a prior infection), and those who sought the exemptions without the antibodies. The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief as well as damages and costs. They are represented by Kroger Gardis & Regas.