By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly 200 health care workers are suing their employers and the federal government over imminent vaccine mandates that they claim violate their rights.

The deadline is Friday for many. The federal mandates are in place at almost every health care facility in the country, including institutions in Minnesota such as: the Mayo Clinic, Allina Health, M Health Fairview, and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Attorney Greg Erickson represents the 188 health care workers who are behind the lawsuit and fear being fired for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Erickson said he expects up to 1,000 more workers to join the suit.

“We have a catastrophic, massive nursing shortage,” he said. “What do you think is going to happen if we terminate a significant portion of the nursing population in the state?”

The Minnesota Nurses Association said in a statement that they support “voluntary vaccination programs” and that “mandates will continue to exacerbate staffing shortages.”

Constitutional law Professor David Schultz says the lawsuit has a chance to succeed and has a particularly strong case when it comes to religious exemptions.

“The current U.S. Supreme Court, which is 6-3 conservative leaning, has very much been supportive of religious liberty arguments in the last couple of years regarding the pandemic,” he said.

Children’s Hospitals told WCCO-TV that 88% of their health care workers are fully vaccinated.

For the Mayo Clinic, that figure is 98% for doctors and 87% for staff.

At M Health Fairview, 80% of staff is vaccinated. Officials there say they are confident more of their employees will soon be vaccinated in order to avoid staffing shortages.

Allina told WCCO-TV that 85% percent of its staff is vaccinated and that 10% received the shots after the mandate was announced.

All the hospitals WCCO-TV contacted said their deadlines for being fully vaccinated range from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.

Esme Murphy