Six Naperville firefighters seek to keep working while fighting COVID-19 vaccination mandate
Six Naperville firefighters challenging a COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirement in federal court will seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the mandate until their case is resolved.
The firefighter-paramedics -- Gil Cortez, Joel Fox, Chris Garon, John Halgren, Robert McCormick and John K. Stiegler -- are suing the city of Naperville, Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The lawsuit is asking a federal judge to declare one of the governor's executive orders to be unconstitutional. The Sept. 3 mandate requires health care workers to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
The lawsuit also alleges that government officials and Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare overstepped their authority by enforcing the mandate.
The firefighters had asked for a temporary restraining order. But during a hearing on Thursday, U.S. Court Judge John Robert Blakey of the Northern Illinois District suggested they instead ask for a preliminary injunction. Jonathan Lubin, the attorney representing the firefighters, agreed.
As a result, Naperville, Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and the governor will have more time to respond to the firefighters' request to work without being vaccinated or tested until the judge decides whether the mandate is constitutional or not.
The next court date is Oct. 15.
On Thursday, the judge asked Naperville's attorney, Jennifer Lutzke, if the city was willing to state, on the record, that none of the firefighters would be fired between now and Oct. 15.
Lutzke said the city's policy is that workers who do not get vaccinated or take weekly tests can be put on unpaid administrative leave. If that happened to the firefighters, they have the right, per their union contract, to file a grievance against the city, she said.
Lubin said the firefighters were tested this week.
"They are complying because they want to keep their jobs," he said.
The judge said that means the firefighters are willing to undergo weekly testing until the Oct. 15 hearing.
In their lawsuit, the firefighters contend the city, the hospital system and the governor have no legal right to enforce the vaccination and test mandate.
Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare is named as a defendant because, according to the suit, Naperville has claimed that the health system directed the city to put the vaccine and test requirements in place.
Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare's attorney argues, in a written reply, that the request was never made. Edward Hospital in Naperville merely wants the city to provide a list of firefighters who are and are not vaccinated.