UPDATE Federal judge dismisses Geisinger employees’ lawsuit over COVID-19 testing | Coronavirus

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the request of more than 100 Geisinger employees to avoid having to test the health care system twice a week for COVID-19, saying the case was unfounded and had no “bona fide constitutional claims.”

The employees were all given religious waivers for Geisinger’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. However, they also requested an exemption from the periodic inspection that was required instead of vaccination.

According to their lawsuit filed on Nov. 8, they risk being fired if they don’t submit to the testing plan.

In a 30-page memorandum and injunction, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann determined that the workers’ allegations were unfounded and “failed across the board.” He said the test plan was rational.

“Federal courts have jurisdiction to redress unlawful conduct — not conduct that the parties consider merely unfair or improper. and here, the Geisinger employees have failed to demonstrate a legal right to an exemption,” Brann wrote.

Through a spokesperson, Geisinger declined to comment on “ongoing lawsuits”. However, it confirmed the test deadline and conditions: Three missed tests will result in “voluntary” discharge.

“Employees have until 11:59 PM (Tuesday evening) to submit their test results. Workers who do not accept the property to meet the COVID-19 vaccine requirement with regular testing will voluntarily resign on Wednesday, Nov. 24,” Geisinger said.

Brann strongly criticized the workers’ attorney, Gregory Stapp, regarding the interpretation and application of state law.

Their constitutional claims fail on the grounds that Geisinger is a private entity and not a state actor, a “lack of civic education that I might sadly expect from an ordinary citizen, but which is unforgivable from a member of the Bar.”

The judge said the plaintiffs failed to immediately seek help from federal court, saying they first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a government agency. The “charge-first-file-later” approach has not yet achieved legal status, Brann noted.

As for the plaintiff’s allegation that their religious beliefs were discriminated against, Brann said they had not even stated what that belief is that would make them reject COVID-19 testing, PCR or antigen testing.

“They haven’t and this failure alone would justify resignation,” Brann wrote.

“If these shortcomings — which would diminish the Geisinger employees’ claim based on their inability to demonstrate a chance of success based on their merits — were not enough, then the Employees also fail to demonstrate that they would suffer irreparable damage. In their submissions and during pleadings, the Employees put forward two arguments. Their first base: the loss of their job and career. Their second: the loss of their constitutional rights. But both fail,” Brann wrote.

‘No information’ about ‘beliefs’

The lawsuit claims six counts, including violations of the Nuremberg Code, federal law and the US Constitution.

Stapp asked the court to block the test requirement and declare it discriminatory, prevent the plaintiffs from terminating their employment and give them time to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the lawsuit, the employees allege Geisinger’s terms of religious exemption violate freedom of religion, the right to privacy and medical autonomy, discriminate on the basis of religion and equal protection, conspire against their civil rights and threat of dismissal are retaliatory measures.

Brann said Geisinger’s employees “didn’t provide any information about their beliefs” in court files.

During oral pleading, counsel vaguely asserted that some held Buddhist beliefs that their bodies were their temple, others objected on the grounds that the test violated the Nuremberg Code, and more so, still believed it was a precept of their Christian faith—that they are made in the image of God,” Brann wrote.

The judge said the plaintiffs’ claims are more in line with scientific or medical beliefs, as they question the accuracy of the tests and the alleged potential harm from chemical agents. They also requested that all or no employees be tested, regardless of vaccination status.

“What the employees have provided to the court suggests that their religious objections are not rooted in religion, nor are they real objections. The exemption requested by the Workers is at war with itself: it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the relief sought by the Workers in turn—that I demand that all workers be tested—with their supposedly deeply felt religious opposition to testing. If you are willing to be tested as long as the vaccinated are, you are not religiously against testing,” Brann wrote.

105 plaintiffs

The first application for injunctive relief had 73 plaintiffs. It grew to 105 plaintiffs when two amended complaints followed. Many had 15 years or more of experience with the company.

The lawsuit is aimed at 13 Geisinger entities that employ the plaintiffs, including Geisinger Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center and Geisinger Health Plan.

Geisinger was represented by the law firm of Harrisburg, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney.

The health system requires COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees, with some receiving medical or religious waivers, including those who have applied for the warrant.

According to Geisinger, a November 1 deadline passed with 24,000 employees adhering to it and 150 fired for not adhering to the mandate.

Stapp did not immediately respond to comment on Brann’s statement.


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