ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The deadline for Los Alamos National Lab employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their job, came and went Friday. It comes as a judge denied a request by more than 100 LANL employees to block the lab’s vaccine mandate.
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On Friday, Judge Jason Lidyard denied the request of the 114 employees asking for the vaccine mandate at LANL to be blocked. Jonathan Diener is an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs, who argued to the judge that LANL should be considered a government entity.
“To me, it’s perfectly clear that employment is a benefit that the government is giving these people at LANL and they’re taking it away because they’re exercising their constitutional right to decide what goes in their body,” said Diener.
LANL required all its employees to be fully vaccinated by October 15 or face termination. Employees granted religious exemptions will go on vacation or unpaid leave until pandemic conditions improve. Judge Lidyard said that was an ‘ok’ religious accommodation.
“That was not a real accommodation and I’m shocked that the judge accepted that as a legitimate accommodation for those people,” said Diener. In the lawsuit, the 114 employees claim the vaccine mandate violates their constitutional rights and that management has created a hostile work environment. The lawsuit also pulls into question vaccines and COVID-19 transmission.
In a statement to KRQE, a LANL spokesperson said:
“Triad values the contributions of all employees, and our decision to mandate the vaccine was made only after considerable thought. The safety and health of our employees remains our top priority as we fulfill our national security mission, and as a result, our vaccine mandate remains in effect. We appreciate the thorough review and consideration provided by the court on the important issues presented at the hearing.”
As of Saturday, October 16, LANL said 96% of its employees are fully vaccinated. It would not say how many employees will be on leave starting Monday or how many employees will be terminated for not getting the shot.
For employees who may have changed their mind and got the first dose between October 1-15, they will be on unpaid leave or vacation until they are fully vaccinated.
Diener said they are considering an appeal, presenting evidence to a jury trial, or going through a mediator to work with LANL.