WILLIAMSPORT – A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an effort by a group of Geisinger employees who obtained an exception to the organization’s vaccine mandate to also be exempted from required COVID testing.
Employees who have been granted immunization mandate waivers must be tested for COVID twice a week, and failure to do so would result in termination.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann said employees “completely missed” to demonstrate a right to be exempted from the testing requirement, which made their request “dead on arrival.”
In addition, Brann berated the employee lawyer, who he said should have recognized Geisinger’s status as a private entity when it comes to constitutional rights issues.
“They are making constitutional claims against a private entity without even a paragraph describing how Geisinger could be considered a state actor,” Brann noted, the appellant “A lack of civic education that I could unfortunately expect from a simple citizen, but which is inexcusable on the part of a member of the bar.
More than 100 healthcare workers who had received conditional religious waivers of Geisinger’s vaccination policy sued the organization on November 8, claiming a violation of their rights if Geisinger Health and its affiliates pushed forward with testing mandatory twice a week from the next day, unless the screening mandate applied to all staff regardless of vaccination status.
Employees have sought an injunction to suspend testing until the case is heard in court, which Brann categorically rejected in his order. He said employees failed to identify the religious belief that Geisinger allegedly discriminated against, which in itself justified the dismissal.
“Federal courts are empowered to remedy illegal behavior – not behavior that the parties simply perceive to be unfair or incorrect,” he wrote. “And here, the Geisinger employees have not shown that they are entitled to a remedy in law.”
The workers also failed to qualify for their discrimination complaint, Brann said in the notice, noting that the plaintiffs sought redress without filing a complaint and authorizing the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission or the Federal Commission. for equal employment opportunity to investigate such a claim.
Employees did not demonstrate the likelihood of success on the merits of the case, he said.
Geisinger requires COVID vaccination for all employees, but grants an exception for some who request medical and / or religious exemptions, provided they agree to the system’s testing protocol. Geisinger reported on November 1 that 24,000 employees have been vaccinated and 150 have lost their jobs for failing to meet the requirement.
Geisinger does not comment on the pending lawsuit, but through a spokesperson he confirmed on Tuesday that exempt employees who did not comply with the testing requirement at the end of the day would be considered to have voluntarily resigned on Wednesday.
On Thursday, The (Sunbury) Daily Item and other outlets reported that a third of the plaintiffs were not in compliance with the testing requirement and would no longer be employed, and that their attorney, Greg Stapp, of Williamsport, intended to file complaints. with federal and state anti-discrimination agencies on behalf of its clients.