Recently, an Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought under the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act (Act) and denied two employees any recovery for their termination based on their refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Krewionek & Bosowski v. McKnight.
In August 2021, two employees at a dental and out-patient surgical office were discharged after they refused to comply with their employer’s rule requiring employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The former employees then sued their employer, claiming a violation of Section 5 of the Act, which provides that:
It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any person in any manner . . . because of such person’s conscientious refusal to receive, obtain, accept, perform . . . or participate in any way in any particular form of health care services contrary to his or her conscience.
In November 2021, while this lawsuit was pending, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law amending the Act to carve out an exception for health mandates related to COVID-19. The Act now provides that it is not a violation of the act for individuals, entities, or public officials to impose requirements “intended to prevent contraction or transmission of COVID-19 . . . .” The amendment was passed as a declaration of existing law, and included a provision that it would “apply to all actions commenced or pending on or after” its effective date.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the employees’ lawsuit, rejecting the argument made by the former employees that they did not believe the COVID-19 vaccines could prevent contraction or transmission of the coronavirus. The court noted that because the language of the exception covers measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the former employees failed to argue that the vaccine mandate was not imposed with the intention to protect patients from contracting the virus, the dismissal of their case was proper. The court cited a U.S. Supreme Court case and the CDC website for the contention that vaccines are an effective tool to prevent and control disease, recognizing that while
some individuals may disagree . . . [these sources] support that the vaccines are intended to prevent the contraction and transmission of COVID-19.
Because the former employees’ lawsuit was “pending on or after” the date the amendment was passed, the court determined it was properly dismissed.
Post Authored by Erin Monforti & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink