A Chicago, Illinois-based healthcare system has agreed to pay over $10.3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by employees who were denied a religious exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
NorthShore University HealthSystem agreed to a class action settlement last month in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
As part of the settlement, NorthShore will deposit $30,000 into a settlement fund within 30 days after preliminary approval of the settlement, followed by depositing $10,307,500.00 into the fund within 35 days of a final judgment being entered.
The healthcare system will also grant religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine to employees who request it, including those who were initially denied their exemption request.
According to the settlement, around 520 employees had been denied a religious accommodation or exemption to the vaccine mandate between July 1 of last year and New Year’s Day 2022.
Of this approximately 520 team members, NorthShore itself estimated that 200 “became compliant with the Vaccine Policy’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement” while “269 were discharged or resigned based upon their religious declination of a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver, whose organization helped represent the employees suing NorthShore, released a statement Monday celebrating the decision.
“Let this case be a warning to employers that violated Title VII. It is especially significant and gratifying that this first classwide COVID settlement protects health care workers,” stated Staver.
“Health care workers are heroes who daily give their lives to protect and treat their patients. They are needed now more than ever.”
For its part, NorthShore explained in a statement published by CBS Chicago on Monday that the settlement was part of the new vaccine mandate policy at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
“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,” stated NorthShore.
“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.”
Last October, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against NorthShore at the behest of several employees who were denied religious exemption requests from the system’s vaccine mandate.
This included those who objected to getting the COVID-19 vaccine because its development included the usage of aborted fetal cells in research.