Two law firms are urging Rock County to withdraw its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy at the Rock Haven Nursing Home or allow laid-off workers who have refused vaccination to return to work.
In two letters sent to district officials by various law firms on February 2, lawyers argue that the district’s mandate is unconstitutional and illegal. Both companies represent Rock Haven employees who were laid off last month after refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Both letters received from The Gazette suggest workers could sue the county if it does not waive their mandate or allow laid-off workers who have consistently refused vaccination to return to work.
One attorney, Fitchburg’s attorney Michael Anderson, said he was representing several employees who were either laid off, quit, or agreed to receive the Moderna vaccine in Rock Haven against their will for fear of being laid off.
Anderson sent a petition letter to Rock County Administrator Josh Smith on February 2, requesting that one of his clients, longtime Rock Haven employees and others who have been laid off, “be allowed to continue with Rock County Exercise of their constitutional (data protection) rights without endangering this employment through the grassroots. “
In another letter dated February 2, an attorney for New York law firm Siri & Glimstad told Smith and Rock Haven interim administrator Sara Beran that Rock Haven’s vaccine mandate was “illegal” and “unenforceable”.
Siri & Glimstad is paying off on social media as a law firm specializing in “vaccination injuries”.
A new county board resolution passed last month allowed some Rock Haven employees to refuse the vaccine with exceptions related to health concerns or religious objections. However, others were fired or fired for refusing the vaccine but not meeting any exemptions.
The Siri & Glimstad letter argues that the county should overturn the mandate because it is “against federal law” and “federal prohibition” to commission vaccines that have not received full federal approval. The attorney asks the county to withdraw the mandate and calls it “coercion”.
The letter warns that if the county does not lift the mandate, “legal action will be taken against you to remove this illegal requirement. Govern yourselves accordingly. “
Lisa Tollefson, a Rock County administrative clerk, said her office has not yet received any claims related to Rock Haven’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The newspaper received a copy of a letter from Rock County Corporation attorney Richard Greenlee confirming that he had received Anderson’s letter. Greenlee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Siri & Glimstad attorney did not respond to a request for comment on the firm’s letter.
The firms represent different employees in Rock Haven, but both letters were dated February 2nd. That was the day the nursing home launched its second wave of mandatory vaccinations for employees.
According to data from Rock Haven staff and HR reports received from The Gazette, at least 20 employees – including some nurses – have either quit or been fired for refusing the vaccine after the mandate was implemented in late December.
Rock Haven is losing more staff due to COVID-19 vaccine mandate
Some employees have told The Gazette that they do not intend to receive the vaccine. Others have said they want to wait for the public to have more time to learn how people tolerate the vaccine.
As of this week, COVID-19 vaccines will still be available nationwide under emergency federal approval, but they have not yet been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
District officials said they originally ordered vaccines in Rock Haven to protect the elderly. A public health officer thinks they are most susceptible to COVID-19.
Anderson, who runs the Fitchburg firm MJA Law, argues in his letter that Rock Haven employees have a right to privacy under federal and state law and that their “freedom interest” could be violated by a vaccine mandate under the 14th Amendment.
Anderson said he learned that many of his clients are considered family to Rock Haven residents who have been isolated from loved ones for months.
He believes the county’s enforcement of the mandate – that health workers lost their livelihoods at a time when the vaccine is not widely available – sends a message that contradicts the glowing descriptions some officials have given during the pandemic have applied to nurses.
“My goal is to help these heroes, these frontline workers, who were trumpeted when COVID first appeared,” he said.