Next week, the judge will decide whether or not unvaccinated Geisinger health workers need to be tested.
WILLIAMSPORT – More than 100 unvaccinated Geisinger employees will learn early next week whether they will be fired if they refuse to be tested for COVID-19 because of religious beliefs.
After nearly two hours of deliberation on Friday, US Middle District Judge Matthew W Brann said he would make a decision by Tuesday on whether to issue an injunction to stop the testing.
Unvaccinated Geisinger employees must be tested at the expense of the health system by that date, or they will be considered to have resigned.
Due to religious beliefs, 104 employees at various Geisinger locations have been granted exemptions from vaccination.
Those who are granted exemptions for any reason, however, are required to be tested twice a week by the health system.
Unvaccinated employees must be tested, according to Geisinger, for the health and safety of the company’s employees, patients, and the general public.
Because vaccinated people can get the coronavirus, Williamsport attorney Gregory A Stapp suggested that if his clients need to be tested, so should all 24,000 Geisinger employees, even if they’ve had their shots.
In August, Geisinger instituted a mandatory vaccination policy.
Those seeking exemptions were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to Anthony Andrisano, one of the health system’s lawyers.
The testing deadline had been set for Tuesday, but Geisinger decided to extend it for another week.
Brann may have hinted at his decision in questions directed primarily at Stapp.
He wanted to know, for example, if he had the authority to issue an injunction when no complaints had been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
Brann also inquired as to how he could assess the sincerity of the employees’ religious beliefs without learning more about them.
He asked Stapp if they had refused to give blood or take their temperature.
Stapp said he plans to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but he needs time to gather information from all of the people he represents.
He claims that his clients are concerned about losing their jobs.
Andrisano argued that the employees had not exhausted their administrative remedies before going to a federal judge.
In and out of the courtroom, Stapp is a force to be reckoned with
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