On Tuesday, October 19, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed unvaccinated healthcare workers’ injunction requests to delay the vaccine tenure of Maine healthcare providers. On the same day, the United States Supreme Court rejected the same claim. The Supreme Court has left the door open for workers to file a new injunction request, which they have already done. A Supreme Court ruling is expected next week.
This case is advancing at a breakneck pace by legal standards, and it remains entirely possible that the Supreme Court will issue a decision before the state’s vaccination deadline of October 29, 2021. Although it is a fascinating thing for them. lawyers, where does that leave affected health care providers and their employees?
At this time, the mandate to vaccinate health care providers in Maine remains in effect, and the only exemption available under state law and implementing rule is medical. No religious exemption is available under the terms of the rule, and to date federal courts have upheld this position.
For employers who are concerned about the liability of terminated employees who claim they have been denied religious accommodation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the best defense appears to be twofold: (1) health care provider follows a state mandate that has been upheld by federal courts and (2) granting a religious exemption may create undue hardship. This is a delicate matter, so it is recommended to consult a lawyer.
For those of you who are not subject to the rule but have implemented or are considering vaccination mandates, the case supports a vaccine mandate and identifies a compelling government interest in mandatory vaccines.