BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory employees have Triad National Security LLC doing business as LANL and LANL Director Thom Mason in U.S. District Court after allegedly sending demand letters to Mason October 11 and 18 asking him to revisit LANL’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy.
The lawsuit was filed October 22 in U.S. District Court by attorneys for the Thomas More Society, a not-for-profit law firm dedicated to “restoring respect in law for life, family and religious liberty”.
The employees are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and compensatory damages based on LANL’s vaccine mandate and “discriminatory treatment” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, along with federal constitutional violations of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The suit claims LANL has approved religious exemptions for some employees including the eight bringing the suit and others not before the Court, but have “given with one hand and then taken back with the other by imposing a blanket one-size-fits-all accommodation” that places those employees for whom a religious exemption has been granted on indefinite leave without pay. It says that LANL’s actions amount to a constructive termination.
The employees maintain that LANL has further trampled on their rights, science and common sense by denying medical exemptions for those who have already recovered from the virus and have “natural immunity that is far more robust than any immunity to be gained by the vaccines.
The LANL mandate was first announced on August 23. The suit states that Mason said the mandate was necessary because of the rising COVID-19 case rates in Northern New Mexico and beyond.
“In fact the COVID-19 case rates on August 23 were approximately the same as they were in late January and that they continued to fall since that date,” the suit says.
The suit mentions that LANL exceeded performance expectations during the pandemic due in no small part to “the courageous and sacrificial efforts of its work force” and that Triad received a $10 million increase in management fees for its performance during 2020.
“Employees on the site wore masks, maintained social distancing and underwent regular testing and self-assessment. In addition 85 percent of the Lab’s workforce made the transition to telework,” the suit said. “Accommodating these employees working from home would have imposed no hardship on LANL art all, let alone an undue hardship. Furthermore accommodating employees onsite would not entail any undue hardship because of their having performed so well during the pandemic for the last 18 months shows that current precautions work. Yet LANL made no effort to attempt to accommodate the plaintiffs or others granted religious exemptions, instead simply issuing a uniform indefinite leave without pay to all.”
The suit claims that LANL carefully undertook individualized review of those granted medical exemptions but not of those requesting religious exemption. It notes that those employees are not guaranteed a position at the end of a personal leave and there is no requirement of management to hold the jobs open.
It also complains that no idea has been given of when the leave without pay might end and when religiously exempt employees would be allowed to return to work.
“The pandemic seems to have no end in sight and despite the COVID numbers dropping steadily in the past few weeks, LANL refuses to say what its criteria is for determining when the levels are low enough for employees on leave without pay to return to work. The defendants’ approach is to try to maximize the uncertainty and anxiety of those employees ready and willing to return to their jobs in an effort to force compliance with their mandate despite recognizing that the plaintiffs and others have a bona fide religious objection to taking the vaccine… … will be irreparably harmed by loss of employment and professional standing as well as the loss of their security clearance,” the suit states.
The suit maintains that the eight plaintiffs have sincere religious beliefs that compel them to refuse vaccination with the available COVID-19 vaccines, “all of which employ aborted fetal cell lines in their testing, development or practice”.
Read the Amended Verified Complaint filed Oct. 22, by Thomas More Society attorneys in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, Raul Archuleta, et al. v. Triad National Security, LLC. d/b/a Los Alamos National Laboratory, et al. here [ https://thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/9-Amended-Verified-Complaint-LANL.pdf ].