Health care workers suing state over vaccine mandate reveal names in court – Press Herald

Sign in or Subscribe See Offers

The seven plaintiffs suing the state lost their jobs at MaineHealth, Genesis Healthcare, MaineGeneral Health and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center when they refused to get the vaccine because of their religious beliefs.
Seven of the nine health care workers who are suing Gov. Janet Mills and other state officials over Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers have complied with a court order and revealed their names in federal court.
The health care workers, who filed their lawsuit last August, originally did so anonymously, citing fears for their safety.
The Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and Sun Journal filed a motion in November 2021 challenging the group’s right to anonymity. The newspapers, which were represented by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, argued that the plaintiffs “alleged fear of harm no longer outweighs the public’s interest in open legal proceedings,” according to court documents.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled last week that the plaintiffs had to reveal their names in an amended complaint in order to continue the lawsuit.
The amended complaint, filed Monday, lists the health care workers as Alicia Lowe, Debra Chalmers, Jennifer Barbalias, Natalie Salavarria, Nicole Giroux, Garth Berenyi and Adam Jones.
Two health care workers who were originally involved in the lawsuit dropped out because the private practice where they work is no longer covered by the vaccine mandate, according to an attorney for Liberty Counsel, the conservative, Florida-based law firm that represents the health care workers. Liberty Counsel has participated in several lawsuits against Maine and other states that challenge COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions on religious grounds.

Advertisement

“The individual plaintiffs decided that the issues at hand are much too important to leave unsettled. They’ve decided to take the very personal risk and identify themselves in order to proceed with their claims against the state of Maine and private employers in order to bring these issues to light and to justice,” said Horatio Mihet, chief legal counsel for Liberty Counsel.
The hometowns of the plaintiffs are not included in court filings. Lowe and Berenyi did not respond to messages from a reporter on Tuesday. Contact information could not be located for the five other plaintiffs. Mihet said the plaintiffs prefer Liberty Counsel to speak on their behalf.

When the plaintiffs filed their complaint in federal court last summer, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers at designated Maine care facilities had not yet gone into effect. It did so on Oct. 20, 2021. The health care workers argued that it was their religious right to refuse the vaccine because of their belief that fetal stem cells from abortions are used to develop the vaccines.
Maine’s mandate does not allow for religious exemptions.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit were Gov. Janet Mills, Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as several health care agencies.
All seven plaintiffs requested exemptions from the mandate because getting the vaccine would violate their religious beliefs but were denied because there are no exemptions, the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit says Lowe was fired from her position at MaineHealth “for refusing to accept a vaccine that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs.” Chalmers and Berenyi lost their jobs at Genesis Healthcare, as did Giroux from MaineGeneral Health. Barbalias, Jones and Salavarria were fired from Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center for refusing to get the vaccine, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit does not describe the positions they held at the health care organizations.
U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy ruled on May 31 that the plaintiffs could not remain anonymous and ordered them to file an amended complaint with their names. Levy said in his ruling that “plaintiffs’ religious beliefs and their resulting medical decisions not to be vaccinated against COVID-19, whether considered separately or together, do not present privacy interests so substantial as to support pseudonymous proceedings. In the final analysis, however, there is a near-total absence of proof that their expressed fears are objectively reasonable.”
Success. Please wait for the page to reload. If the page does not reload within 5 seconds, please refresh the page.
Enter your email and password to access comments.
Forgot Password?
Don’t have a commenting profile?
Hi, to comment on stories you must . This profile is in addition to your subscription and website login.
Already have a commenting profile? .
Invalid username/password.
Please check your email to confirm and complete your registration.
Create a commenting profile by providing an email address, password and display name. You will receive an email to complete the registration. Please note the display name will appear on screen when you participate.
Already registered? to join the discussion.
Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.
Use the form below to reset your password. When you’ve submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.
Send questions/comments to the editors.

source

Leave a Comment