Six Naperville firefighters suing city, health system, Pritzker over vaccine, testing mandate

Six Naperville firefighters are suing the city, Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, saying they have no legal right to enforce a COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandate based on an executive order from the governor.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, the six firefighter-paramedics — Gil Cortez, Joel Fox, Chris Garon, John Halgren, Robert McCormick and John K. Stiegler — are asking the court to declare the governor's mandate from Sept. 3 unconstitutional. The lawsuit also states the government and its entities overstepped their authority by enforcing the mandate, and the plaintiffs have a “fundamental right to their bodily autonomy, and to make health decisions in accordance with their beliefs and conscience.”

Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and Naperville officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“The city of Naperville is complying with Gov. Pritzker's executive orders,” said Naperville Director of Communications Linda LaCloche. “We are aware of the lawsuit and we do not discuss pending litigation.”

The lawsuit further asks that the plaintiffs be compensated for damages and have their attorney fees paid for by the defendants.

Jonathan Lubin, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said a phone hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in front of U.S. District Court Judge John Robert Blakey to decide on a temporary restraining order they've requested on the mandate.

“The main thing we're looking for is the declaration that the governor has exceeded his authority procedurally, and that subsequently this just isn't something the government can do,” Lubin said.

“These are heroes, and they were on the front lines with the virus at the beginning when we knew nothing about it and how many people were going to die from it,” Lubin said. “Now, suddenly, they're being scapegoated and told that not only do they have to be vaccinated, but if they don't get vaccinated they're going to be subject to weekly tests. And the amazing part about the weekly test thing is there were no weekly tests up until now.”

Pritzker's executive order mandated that health care workers receive their first COVID-19 vaccination dose by Sept. 19 and, if necessary, the second dose within 30 days. If they don't receive the vaccination, the mandate states health care workers must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

According to the lawsuit, anyone who doesn't comply with the mandate will be placed on administrative leave without pay.

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