Federal court hearing underway for RI health care workers opposed to state’s vaccine mandate

This comes 2 days before the deadline for the state mandate for healthcare workers to get the vaccine.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – A federal court case hearing is underway brought forward by Rhode Island health care workers opposed to the state’s impending vaccine mandate.

The hearing is set to start at 10 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Providence, heard by Judge Mary McElroy. The Zoom hearing hit capacity early on- with over 300 people listening to the case.

Wednesday’s hearing comes just two days before Rhode Island’s October 1st statewide vaccine mandate for health care workers goes into place.

Governor Dan McKee announced this deadline for healthcare workers in state licensed facilities back on August 17th.

The lawsuit circles around the argument that workers should have the choice to both medical and religious exemptions. Attorney Joe Larisa, representing the 4 anonymous plaintiffs, says the state’s mandate only specifically details medical exemptions- arguing this goes against Title 7.

Attorney Michael Field- representing Governor Dan McKee and Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott- says not once in the mandate does it say an employer can not consider religious exemptions in specific cases. Field argues when it boils down to specifics over exemptions- like religious or medical- this is an issue between the employer and employee.

“People go to healthcare workers in their worst moments,” Field adds arguing this mandate is in place to protect those when they need it as the state battles the ongoing pandemic.

The hearing wrapped up around 1p.m. No decision was made on the temporary restraining order.

A similar challenge by firefighters was dismissed on Tuesday.

This is a developing story, check back for more details.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island