A federal judge has rejected a request anonymously filed by a group of 188 workers to block their employers’ COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
Following a nearly three-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel on Tuesday said that those behind the lawsuit would have to reveal their identities to their employers, who are named as defendants in this case.
The lawsuit named some 20 health institutions across Minnesota as defendants, including the Mayo Clinic, Regions Hospital, and University of Minnesota Physicians. An attorney representing the workers told Star Tribune that his clients wished to remain anonymous because of “pressure on getting vaccinated.”
“You’re talking about people who held the hand of people dying of COVID,” he told Minnesota Public Radio. “These folks risked their lives to help these patients and now they’re being terminated because their religious beliefs won’t allow them to take the vaccine? It’s really sad.”
While Brasel didn’t dismiss the complaint altogether, she denied the workers’ request for a temporary injunction, which would have prevented the health care providers involved in the suit from enforcing their vaccination policies.
The Minnesota lawsuit came shortly after the Biden administration required COVID-19 vaccination of all staff within facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding—a decision expected to affect more than 17 million Americans working at hospital, nursing homes, and other institutions participating in the government-funded programs.
In the complaint (pdf), the Minnesota health care workers said that their employers, in an alleged attempt to increase inoculation statistics to entitle them to more money in federal subsidies, were enforcing the vaccination requirements on all employees, including those with religious objections and COVID-19 survivors who have natural immunity.
“Plaintiffs’ employers are placing a substantial burden on their employees not to practice their religious-based objection to the COVID-19 vaccination or live under the threat of having their religious exemption withdrawn at any time,” the complaint read.
The complaint also described how health care workers were once celebrated as “heroes,” but are now “chastised and ridiculed as ‘anti-vaxxers’ or worse.”
“The same ‘front line’ health care workers hailed as heroes by the media for treating patients before vaccines were available, and even for months after the vaccines became available, including the Plaintiff employees herein, are now vilified by the media as pariahs who must be set apart from society until they are shamed, threatened, or now mandated into vaccinating,” it stated.
In a similar lawsuit, a group of 51 health care employees in Detroit, Michigan, sued the Henry Ford Health System, seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the hospital system’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements. The plaintiffs, who called the vaccine requirement a violation of their autonomy and constitutional right to reject unwanted medical treatment, dropped the case before a court hearing was scheduled.