27 former employees sue Mayo Clinic over vaccination policy

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic faces lawsuits from 27 former employees alleging they were wrongly fired after being denied religious exemptions from the health system's program requiring COVID-19 vaccination, the Star Tribune reported June 23. 

The plaintiffs are listed in nine lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota in May and June.

One of the lawsuits, filed by Sherry Ihde, said Mayo "put itself in the position of deciding the sincerity of the religious belief of the plaintiffs and, whether a belief was 'religious' or not," according to the Star Tribune

Plaintiffs allege Mayo failed to provide information about its religious exemption process, the newspaper reported. In addition, former employees said they have suffered financial losses exceeding $75,000 each.

Mayo referred Becker's to a previous statement, which said the health system "stands firmly behind the evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to help protect the health and safety of our patients, workforce, visitors and communities. The Mayo Clinic COVID-19 vaccination program remains in effect. Mayo Clinic will defend its vaccine program implementation and disputes many of the factual allegations in the lawsuit."

The statement added, "Mayo Clinic recognizes that some employees have deeply held religious beliefs that led them to seek exemption from COVID-19 vaccination. In compliance with established laws, Mayo offered its employees the option to request a religious accommodation. The majority of religious exemption requests were granted." 

In January, Mayo estimated it would fire about 1 percent of its 73,000-person workforce because of noncompliance with the health system's vaccination program.

Health system employees who were not granted a medical or religious exemption had to receive at least one vaccine dose by Jan. 3 and not be overdue for a second shot if their first dose was in the Moderna or Pfizer regimen. 

As of Jan. 4, nearly 99 percent of staff across all Mayo Clinic locations had complied with the required vaccination program.

"Mayo Clinic implemented a required COVID-19 vaccination program for all staff to advance the primary value of Mayo Clinic — the needs of the patient come first," Mayo's statement said. "Based on science and data, COVID-19 vaccinations prevent hospitalizations and save lives among those who become infected with COVID-19. That's true for everyone in our communities — and it's especially true for the many patients with serious or complex diseases who seek care at Mayo Clinic each day."

But some former employees contend they worked remotely, did not provide direct patient care or had shown they could safely perform their duties without receiving the vaccine, according to the Star Tribune.

Former employees also say Mayo reversed a testing requirement after they were fired, the newspaper reported. 

News of the lawsuits comes after Gregory Erickson, lead attorney on the lawsuits, told the Post Bulletin in May that Mayo could face more than 100 lawsuits over vaccination mandate terminations. 

Mayo Clinic said it will not comment further on pending litigation.

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