A judge on Tuesday denied a preliminary injunction, allowing NorthShore University HealthSystem to fire 14 employees who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
14 unnamed employees being represented by Chicago-based Leahu Law Group and Florida-based Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit on October 25 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
NorthShore University HealthSystem operates hospitals in Evanston, Highland Park, Glenview, Arlington Heights, Skokie and Chicago.
The lawsuit was seeking to remedy NorthShore’s “pattern of unlawful discrimination” against employees who requested religious exemptions and accommodations from the hospital system’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
According to the lawsuit, the termination of the 14 employees would cause “incalculable and irreparable harm to them and their families as described herein, including homelessness, lack of medical care, lack of food and shelter, disrupted education for their children, financial ruin, and harms to their physical, mental and emotional health.”
The suit said that the plaintiffs are against the COVID-19 vaccines because they were “either developed from, or tested with, aborted fetal cells lines” or for other religious reasons.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs asked the court to grant a temporary restraining order against NorthShore and a preliminary injunction.
On October 29, U.S. District Judge John Kness issued a temporary restraining order to prevent NorthShore from placing the employees on unpaid leave and from firing them.
The 14 employees were set to be placed on leave by NorthShore on November 1 and then terminated by the end of the year for refusing the vaccine mandate.
On Tuesday, Kness issued a memorandum opinion after his temporary restraining order against NorthShore expired on Monday.
Kness said in his Tuesday ruling that he was denying the 14 employees a preliminary injunction as the case remains pending.
He said that the plaintiffs have demonstrated “some likelihood of success” on the merits of their Title VII claim but they failed to show irreparable harm needed for a preliminary injunction.
“Put another way, if Plaintiffs succeed at trial, their damages can be fully compensated through the traditional legal remedy of a damages award. Because that remedy is available, the Court cannot lawfully enter a preliminary injunction,” Kness said.
In a statement, NorthShore said they were pleased with the court’s decision.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision and remain committed to doing everything in our power to keep our team members, patients and communities healthy and safe. We are proud that the NorthShore team members serving our patients are vaccinated and are grateful to all our team members who continue to show compassion and care,” the statement said.
The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for December 14, court records show.