WILLIAMSPORT – Unvaccinated Geisinger employees who fail to meet the health system’s COVID-19 testing requirement have reportedly been given a brief reprieve from their layoffs.
That’s what Geisinger attorneys told US Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann on a conference call earlier this week, Gregory A. Stapp said Tuesday.
Williamsport’s attorney is representing 104 Geisinger employees in a number of locations demanding a layoff ban. They mention religious beliefs because they are not tested.
Geisinger exempts employees from vaccination for religious reasons, but requires that they submit to COVID-19 testing twice a week, whether they are in one of the facilities or working from home.
Employees were advised that three violations of the test requirement would lead to dismissal. The deadline to comply, which had been Monday, is now next week, Geisinger’s lawyer told the judge, Stapp said.
Brann has scheduled pleadings about the ban request for Friday at 10 a.m.
Stapp filed an amended complaint on Sunday that increased the number of plaintiffs by about 30. The lead plaintiff is Theodore Federoff, an employee of the Geisinger Clinic.
“If the defendants want to protect their employees, patients and visitors from possible COVID-19 infection, they should require both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees to undergo PCR or antigen testing twice a week,” the prosecutors said.
They cite reports that vaccinated individuals are likely to spread the delta variant as unvaccinated individuals. It should be all or no one when it comes to testing, Stapp claims.
Geisinger spokesperson Matthew R. Van Stone declined to confirm what was said during the conference call, citing the health system’s practice of not commenting on pending lawsuits.
He said that after the original complaint was filed in court, anyone approved for a vaccination waiver, whether for religious or medical reasons, should be tested twice a week.
Geisinger also issued this statement:
“As a private employer, our mandatory vaccine policy and associated process comply with the law, and similar policies have been enforced in state and federal courts.
“Our mandatory vaccine policies have already resulted in a 50 percent drop in both the number of Geisinger employees testing positive and those in quarantine…”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are employed at Geisinger facilities in locations such as Danville, Lewistown, Bloomsburg, Pottsville, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre.
They say they have been informed that failure to submit the tests will be considered a refusal of the accommodations offered and that they have voluntarily resigned.
They claim to be willing to abide by reasonable adjustments to vaccination policy, but accuse Geisinger of failing to engage in meaningful discussion.
The requested injunction would prevent termination from filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for that agency to complete an investigation.
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