Maine healthcare workers take vaccine mandate fight to Supreme Court

A group of Maine healthcare workers is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case regarding the state's COVID-19 shot mandate.

The workers, who refused COVID-19 vaccines based on their religious objections and were fired, filed a petition with the nation's highest court Aug. 15. 

At issue in the petition is a First Circuit decision that held that the potential for undue hardship for hospitals if they had allowed religious exemptions, in violation of Maine law, superseded federal workplace discrimination protections, according to Law360.

In the petition, attorneys for the seven healthcare workers contend that Maine Gov. Janet  Mills and state health officials and hospitals forced employers to ignore Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by denying all religious accommodations for the healthcare workers. 

The petition argues that a previous First Circuit decision "conflicts with the precedent of [the Supreme Court] and the precedent of numerous circuit courts concerning whether compliance with a state law directly contrary to Title VII can excuse noncompliance with Title VII."

The petition also argues that the lower court's decision "conflicts with [the Supreme Court's] precedent and the precedent of other circuits on the question of whether the plain language of Title VII explicitly requires the preemption of contrary state laws."

The case is against Ms. Mills; Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services; Nancy Beardsley, acting director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; and five of the state's largest hospital systems, which include MaineHealth, Genesis Healthcare of Maine, MaineGeneral Health, and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. 

Becker's reached out to these parties and will update this story if comments are received.

Maine announced its healthcare worker vaccine mandate in 2021. In 2019, the state passed a law that removed religious and philosophical mandate exemptions for all vaccines, which took effect in September 2021. 

The Supreme Court has until Sept. 15 to submit a response to the workers' petition.


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