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Federal judge refuses to block SRS vaccination mandate

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 10:33 AM EST
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A federal judge has decided not to block a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for Savannah River Site workers who sued to keep their jobs.

Dozens of employees filed a lawsuit against Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the management and operations contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear complex.

The employees had sought a preliminary injunction and restraining order, but the judge decided they didn’t meet the burden to stop the mandate while the lawsuit makes its way through the system.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs cite issues with the employer at the beginning of the pandemic, discussed the virus spreading, the call for employer mandates, and issues with the COVID vaccines, specifically the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The plaintiffs argued that requiring vaccination is “beyond its legal bounds” and that “the Plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed, losing their livelihood, their salaries including their source of income, and in some cases their health benefits, if the court does not take immediate action to step in and block the Defendant’s implementation of the illegal vaccine mandate.”

Those employees also said they wanted the court to ban SRS from firing people if they haven’t been vaccinated and reinstate anyone they previously fired for not getting it.

The employees filed suit Oct. 14 in a state court, but the case was moved to federal court the next day.

Arguments in the case were heard Nov. 30 in federal court in Columbia.

The judge ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t meet the standards required for a preliminary injunction and restraining order.

READ THE JUDGE’S DECISION:

The plaintiffs call the vaccination mandate a repugnant choice between their job and health; it’s not about the financial loss but the principle. They say the mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer. The arguments focused on the overall concerns about the vaccine and the lack of exemptions granted.

“These private employer mandates need to be shot down by the South Carolina General Assembly emphatically without any reservation and without any ambiguity and it needs to happen in January if not before,” said Don Brown, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

The main arguments by the plaintiffs in the Nov. 30 hearing were the unauthorized practice of medicine, that the mandate is similar to a contract and that they operated without the vaccine, so there’s no public benefit.

The defense says the mandate does not restrict or limit the employer’s ability to fire. It does not resemble a contract but it creates a requirement to continue working there, the employer says. This was a response to COVID numbers – not just the federal mandate. They say employees have been aware of this since September.

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