Supreme Court Refuses to Block Vaccine Mandate for Massachusetts Hospital Workers

By Kelsey Reichmann

WASHINGTON (CN) — Justice Stephen Breyer on Monday afternoon refused to grant relief to workers at a Boston-based hospital in the latest challenge to Covid-19 vaccine mandates to come across the high court’s shadow docket.

Without referring the case to his colleagues on the court, Breyer denied the request for an emergency injunction with no explanation for his ruling or call for a response from the hospital.

Mass General Brigham started enforcing its Covid-19 vaccine mandate on Nov. 5 and has since terminated employees that refused to comply. Both a district court and the First Circuit have denied requests for a preliminary injunction in the case. The hospital workers sought an injunction from the Supreme Court while their appeal is pending at the Boston-based First Circuit.

The hospital workers allege Mass General is violating their Title VII rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act by enforcing the vaccine mandate without accommodation — something their Supreme Court petition claims has been offered to other employees. The workers claim the mandate violates their religious beliefs or places them in “significant physical or mental danger.”

“After putting applicants under constant pressure to forsake their religious beliefs and physical wellbeing, respondent has enforced its deadline for applicants to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or place themselves in physical danger by taking a vaccine, and relief cannot wait,” the application states. “By choosing not to violate their sincerely held beliefs or place themselves in physical danger, and losing their jobs as a result, applicants face the continuing inability to feed their children, the continuing loss of any practical ability to work in their professions, constant potential homelessness, and continuing significant emotional and psychological harm.”

An attorney for the hospital workers declined the comment on the case.

The appeal from Massachusetts hospital workers is not the first to cross the high court’s so-called shadow docket, which refers to rulings and orders issued by justices on emergency petitions.

Last month, the court rejected an appeal from Maine health care workers. In an opinion on the ruling, Justice Amy Coney Barrett focused on the nature of the emergency docket itself while three of her conservative colleagues — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — penned a dissent focused on the merits of the case.

The justices have also previously rejected vaccine mandate challenges from New York public school teachers and Indiana University students and employees.

Source: Courthouse News

Kelsey Reichmann is a reporter covering the Supreme Court and politics for Courthouse News Service. She previously covered emerging aviation technology for Avionics International and Defense Daily. Kelsey resides in Washington, D.C.

Image: Spiro Skouras

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