Eleven former employees are suing St. Charles Health System for $2.5 million, claiming religious discrimination and unlawful termination over vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit filed in Deschutes County Circuit Court outlines the circumstances each employee claims happened to them.
Many of the plaintiffs claim to be long-time employees with good work records.
One was named Caregiver of the Year and Caregiver of the Month, according to the court documents. Another claims she was able to successfully work from home for 18 months prior to the mandate being implemented.
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In addition to claiming their religious freedoms conflicted with the COVID vaccine mandate, the lawsuit says St. Charles fostered a hostile work environment. Their attorney writes “Plaintiffs were isolated, mocked, highlighted as being unvaccinated, ridiculed, and gaslighted” by St. Charles, other employees and patients.
The lawsuit goes on to say that the health system could have allowed the employees to keep working with personal protective equipment, regular testing or other measures that had been enacted prior to the vaccine rollout.
Then-Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide mandate requiring healthcare workers to provide proof of vaccination or ask for a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18, 2021. On that date, St. Charles announced 94% of its 4,533 caregivers met the deadline and were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Another 51 caregivers had started their vaccination series.
St. Charles provided this response to the lawsuit:
“St. Charles fulfilled its obligations to comply in good faith with both state and federal vaccine requirements for health care workers and prioritized the safety of its patients, its caregivers and the community during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kayley Mendenhall, a spokesperson for St. Charles Health System. “We stand by our commitment to keep our community safe during that difficult time.”
The attorney for the plaintiffs declined to speak further on the lawsuit to Central Oregon Daily News.
You can read the full lawsuit below.