Massachusetts Hospital Workers Take Vaccination Mandate Fight to Supreme Court The Supreme Court. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 24 November 2021 01:27 PM
A group of Massachusetts health-care workers has asked the Supreme Court for an exemption from its Boston-based hospital’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
Eight Mass General Brigham (MGB) employees, whose requests for religious or medical exemptions were denied, filed a challenge to the mandate with Justice Stephen Breyer, CNN reported Tuesday.
Breyer handles emergency matters arising from the region, The Hill reported. He could act unilaterally on the request, ask for more briefings from the case's parties, or refer the application to the full court for further consideration, CNN said.
The eight MGB workers were placed on unpaid leave and some were ultimately fired after repeated refusal to get vaccinated by their employer's Nov. 5 deadline. MGB has granted religious or medical exemptions to more than 230 employees.
The workers claim that the hospital hadn't proven that granting extensions to them would cause an undue burden on the health-care provider, CNN said.
"The fact that Respondent is already accommodating hundreds of other employees conclusively refutes Respondent's mere assertions that it would cause an undue hardship to accommodate 'further exemptions' or 'additional unvaccinated employees' because it needs to 'minimize the number of unvaccinated staff' and not 'allow large numbers of employees to remain unvaccinated,'" the Supreme Court application said, while quoting from lower-court filings, CNN reported.
The workers argue that the hospital's refusal of religious exemptions is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits religious discrimination in employment.
The workers failed in their attempts to get a district court or the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the hospital's mandate.
Mass General Brigham is Massachusetts’ largest private employer and its vaccine requirements cover some 80,000 employees, according to the health-care network.
The Supreme Court late last month rejected an emergency appeal from health-care workers in Maine to block a vaccine mandate. Three conservative justices noted their dissents.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor early last month refused to block New York City's requirement that its public school teachers and employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Sotomayor denied a challenge by a group of four teachers and teaching assistants who sought to halt the vaccine mandate while litigation over the dispute continues in lower courts.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett in August rejected an emergency application for an injunction by Indiana University students against the school’s vaccine mandate before the start of the school year.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.