Hundreds of federal workers at Hanford, PNNL file lawsuit against vaccine mandate

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Hundreds of workers at Hanford and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are suing to block the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that could cost them their jobs if they don’t comply.

The 67-page lawsuit that was filed Tuesday is led by Pete Serrano, the director and general counsel for the Silent Majority Foundation, and Nathan Arnold with Arnold & Jacobowitz PLLC in Seattle.

It claims that due to the vaccine requirements, the Hanford site won’t have enough employees to keep it safe and secure.

Some of the plaintiffs in the case range from Department of Energy (DOE) employees, Hanford patrol officers to engineers, managers, nuclear operators, control technicians, and multiple workers from PNNL, a DOE research lab based in Richland.

“It’s really a broad swathe of what each individuals situation is so when we have hundreds of plaintiffs we’re able to kind of cover the gamut of all the issues,” Serrano said.

Defendants in the lawsuit include DOE Hanford Manager Brian Vance and President Biden.

The lawsuit claims that the vaccine mandate violates 17 clauses in the Constitution including equal protection, violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), wrongful termination, breach of contract, and more.

It also argues that workers who have had COVID-19 that now have natural immunity should not be required to get the vaccine.

“They don’t want the government to say, ‘you must put this in your body in order to have your employment,'” Serrano said. “You have to place something in your body not knowing what the exact side effects will be.”

The lawsuit also wants U.S. Judge Thomas Rice, who was assigned the case, to declare the mandates unconstitutional, adding that it’s infringing on their free exercise of religion.

This comes after dozens of workers have led multiple rallies in the Tri-Cities.

READ: ‘Rally Against the Mandate’ draws hundreds of protestors near Hanford site

Some plaintiffs said they were granted either religious or medical exemptions but no accommodations were provided.

Another said they received an accommodation to provide weekly negative test results but that it was unacceptable.

Currently, DOE employees at Hanford and other federal employees need to be vaccinated or have an approved exemption by Nov. 22.

Other employees that work for contractors or subcontractors did have a Dec. 8 deadline that is now extended to January.

“We’re trying to get everything done in a timely fashion to protect people’s livelihoods so knowing that’s at stake, we’re trying to move this as quickly as possible,” Serrano said. “Hopefully we’ll have a pretty quick turnaround from the district court.”

His message to the people he’s representing?

“Have hope. We have constitutional protections and guarantees that are afforded to each individual so we’re going to help you protect those,” Serrano said.

A “Hanford and PNNL Workers against the mandate” Facebook group currently has around 1,500 members.

KAPP-KVEW reached out to the DOE for their reaction to the lawsuit but they declined to comment.

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