A federal appeals courtroom in Chicago is deciding whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction to a pediatric physician who was laid off in November after refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine, whereas a number of of his coworkers who additionally denied the vaccine have been requested to return.
Dr. Paul Halczenko is among the many 69 individuals who filed the lawsuit after their request for a non secular exemption to getting the vaccine was denied by their employer, Ascension Well being, and so they have been laid off. He’s requesting the courtroom to return his job again to him with again pay.
Ascension Well being notified the staff that there was too nice of a threat for them to return to work with out being vaccinated, however the majority of those that have been laid off have been requested to return to work shortly after, based on William Bock, III. a lawyer for Dr. Halczenko.
Dr. Halczenko, a physician within the pediatric intensive care unit of St. Vincent Hospital, a part of Ascension, has been unemployed since November 12 with out rationalization, Bock mentioned. He added that 4 nurses who he’s additionally representing have been requested to return to work in December, however Dr. Halczenko was not requested to return, and never given a motive.
“We have now no rationalization for why Dr. Halczenko is handled otherwise,” Bock mentioned. “We imagine that it’s non secular discrimination.”
Longtime labor and employment lawyer Denise Blommel, additionally a member of the Individuals with Incapacity’s Act Labor and Employment part, mentioned the query right here is, “Why did the employer inform all people the identical factor and but 4 nurses can return with out the vaccine and it’s completely different for the physician?”
She added that what’s extra necessary is, “have been these causes ever communicated?” Blommel identified that Title VII requires an employer to accommodate an worker.
“Perhaps the 4 nurses may be accommodated however the pediatric physician can’t be accommodated,” she speculated.
The opposite query I’d have is, “What’s completely different concerning the physician? Is he a member of one other protected class beneath Title VII? Is he being handled otherwise due to his race, coloration, or nationwide origin? That might be a violation of the regulation if he was handled otherwise.”
Ascension Well being, the second largest operator of hospitals within the US, instated a vaccine mandate that every one staff should obtain the vaccine by November 12, 2021, and when a number of staff refused to, claiming non secular exemptions beneath Title VII, they have been laid off.
“To my data they didn’t grant any non secular exemptions, nonetheless medical exemptions have been granted,” Bock mentioned.
This week, the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments within the case involving Dr. Halczenko. Bock argued that the physician needs to be given a preliminary injunction based mostly on the truth that “his high-quality motor abilities will diminish and due to this fact trigger hurt to him if he’s unable to work.”
Bock mentioned he hopes that Dr Halczenko is “reinstated with again pay.” He is additionally asking the courtroom to certify a nationwide class of Ascension Well being staff, greater than 300 folks, who claimed non secular exemptions. Whereas most have been requested to return to work, they weren’t rewarded for his or her hardship because of initially dropping their employment, Bock mentioned.
Counsel for Ascension Well being didn’t reply to requests for remark.
The case is Halczenko v. Ascension Well being, Inc., seventh Cir., No. 22-01040.
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