Newly hired oncologist and hematologist at St. Peter’s Health is part of legal process asking Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to stop her former employer from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccination policy pending appeal in a lower court.
dr. Elizabeth Bigger is one of eight people known as “Together Employees” named in an urgent court order pending appeal filed Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court against Mass General Brigham Inc., a Massachusetts-based healthcare.
Attempts to reach Bigger on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Together Employees, which consists of more than 200 employees, said the vaccine mandate violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs or puts them in significant physical or mental danger.” They also note that mandatory vaccine policies are “blatant violations” of the American with Disabilities Act and Title VII, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin.
“Failing to do so would result in the employer de facto removing the burden of showing actual unnecessary hardship, leaving only lip service for religious and disabled accommodation,” the filing said.
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On Nov. 4, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued an interim rule requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees in most healthcare facilities, including hospitals, who participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The proposed rule went into effect on November 5. Under the regulation, all eligible workers must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, according to a post on the Montana Hospital Association website.
The rule allows exemptions for personnel with recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, customs or practices, the Montana Hospital Association reports.
Mass General Brigham Inc. set a Nov. 5 deadline to take a COVID-19 vaccine, the Nov. 23 application notes said. It states that the applicants have been discharged from the hospital. It also states that one applicant resigned before being fired and another was vaccinated.
It also notes that Mass General has already accommodated hundreds of other workers claiming waivers, disproving claims it would create an unnecessary hardship to allow “further waivers” or “additional unvaccinated workers” because it “doesn’t increase the number.” -minimize vaccinated workers”.
On October 17, the Together Employees filed a preliminary injunction request to stop the claim. A district court rejected the request on Oct. 20. Appeals were also unsuccessful, the Nov. 23 filing says, prompting applicants to urgently approach Breyer.
According to the November 23 court document, Bigger was seeking religious accommodation. She has refused all vaccines related to aborted fetal tissue in the production and testing of the vaccines, provided a scriptural basis for her belief, and cited scientific sources. They said a hospital reviewer falsely believed she had claimed vaccines contained aborted fetal tissues.”
On Monday, St. Peter’s Health announced it had hired Bigger as its new oncologist, replacing Dr. Thomas Weiner who was released from hospital more than a year ago and has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. That lawsuit will be heard in Helena on November 14, 2022.
With more than 15 years of experience providing oncology and hematology care, Bigger relocates to Helena from Massachusetts where she practices at the Mass General Cancer Center, according to the press release.
St. Peter’s Health Medical Group President Dr. Todd Wampler said in a press release that Bigger has elite training and a distinguished background, and that her practices “are strongly aligned with evidence-based medicine and the team-oriented culture” they cultivate at St. Pieter’s.
St. Peter’s Health officials were asked Wednesday if they were aware of the lawsuit and whether Bigger should be vaccinated.
They said the hospital does not share details about individual staff members’ vaccination status under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“We take seriously our responsibility to keep our employees, patients and the community safe,” the hospital said in an emailed statement. “We believe that the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are the best available tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19, minimize hospitalizations due to the virus and save local lives.”
The hospital said it plans to comply with the CMS vaccine mandate and require its 1,700 staff members to verify by December 6 that they have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or official religious or medical waiver papers. Submit.
The hospital will also continue to follow basic precautions, including universal masking, which have proven highly effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
CNN reported that the request was made to Breyer because he oversees the circuit from which the case arises. They said Breyer could follow up on the request, request more briefings from the parties involved, or refer the request to the full court for further consideration.
Mass General Brigham is the state’s largest private employer, and its vaccine requirements cover about 80,000 employees, CNN reported.
Attorney Roger K. Gannam represents Together Employees and attorney Ryan P. McLane represents Mass General Brigham Inc.
Assistant Editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.