Maine health care employers may have to defend themselves before the U.S. Supreme Court against an allegation that they violated federal anti-discrimination laws in their efforts to comply with Gov. Janet Mills’ (D) controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Maine health care workers who were fired during the COVID-19 pandemic for being unvaccinated — despite requesting a religious exemption to the state’s mandate — have petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari asking the Court to weigh in on the lawsuit they brought against their employers.
The case — Alicia Lowe, et al., v. Janet Mills, et al. — was last heard by the First Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.
Liberty Counsel, the nonprofit the law firm handling the case, has argued that in complying with Mills Administration’s vaccine mandate — which did not allow employers to offer a testing option for unvaccinated employees — the employers violated the health care workers’ federally protected rights.
According to Liberty Counsel, the petition asks the Supreme Court to provide answers to two main questions:
- “Whether compliance with state laws directly contrary to Title VII’s requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation may serve as an undue hardship justifying an employer’s noncompliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
- “Whether a state law that requires employers to deny without any consideration all requests by employees for a religious accommodation, contrary to Title VII’s religious nondiscrimination provision, is preempted by Title VII and the Supremacy Clause.”
In a press release sent out by Liberty Counsel Tuesday morning, the group noted that Justice Neil Gorsuch commented two years ago on the situation faced by these health care workers:
It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will ultimately decide to hear their case. In order for a case to make its way in front of the Court, at least four Justices must agree to grant the petitioner a writ of certiorari.
An earlier version of this story misstated the defendants named in the petition. The petition filed this week pertains only to the employers’ alleged violation of their employees Title VII protections. The article has been corrected.