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Unvaccinated Sandia National Laboratories employees – who have either been fired or are expected to be terminated soon for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine – filed a lawsuit in Texas over the vaccine mandate in an effort to keep their jobs.
Members of the SNL Workforce Freedom Alliance and several current and former lab workers are the plaintiffs in the complaint and request for injunctive relief, which was filed last week in federal court in Amarillo, Texas. Ana Garner, an attorney representing the Sandia workers, said she ultimately expects to represent about 200 employees who are part of the alliance, which was formed on social media.
The complaint is seeking an injunction so the unvaccinated workers can keep their jobs, which are at risk because of an executive order President Joe Biden issued in September requiring federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Originally planned to be enforced last month, Garner said the employees are now facing an early January deadline to get vaccinated. The order has been challenged by several states and other opponents.
“Plaintiffs contend, as emphatically as words will allow, that a person has every right to decide whether something is going to be injected into his body which will have an effect on his body and even more so where it will actually change the way his body functions,” the lawsuit states. “This is all the more so when this injection has caused death and serious disability to a not insignificant percentage of those who have taken it.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says serious adverse events after the COVID vaccine can occur but are rare. The agency says the vaccines are safe and effective and recommends that everyone 5 years and older be inoculated.
Garner said most of her clients are working from home, which makes rules requiring them to be vaccinated and wear masks “stupid.”
For example, one of the plaintiffs, David Peterson, who has worked for Sandia in some capacity for 20 years, lives in Texas and never sets foot at the labs in Albuquerque. The lawsuit says he has both religious and medical safety concerns with the vaccine. His official exemption remains unresolved at the labs, Garner said.
“We’re trying to prevent Sandia National from putting negative pressure on any people if they refuse to have the shot,” she told the Journal in an interview.
Jon Brooks, an electrical engineer from Bernalillo County who worked at the labs until he was fired in October after not filling out the form to request an exemption from the mandate, and Anna Burns, a 67-year-old labs worker who doesn’t want an “experimental medical treatment,” are the other named plaintiffs in the lawsuit. It was filed against National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia and Honeywell International Inc.
The lawsuit says the federal court in northern Texas has jurisdiction over the case, in part, because Pantex Nuclear Labs is in Amarillo. That lab is home to the Weapons Evaluation Test Laboratory, which Sandia operates. There are also other Sandia employees who, like Peterson, work remotely from Texas.
Officials with Sandia labs couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.
When Biden enacted the policy in September, lab officials said more than 80% of its workers were fully vaccinated, which is higher than the percentage of total New Mexico residents overall.
The lawsuit contends that COVID is a far less dangerous disease than what health authorities have reported, and that the vaccine is more dangerous. The court filing says that 99.8% of COVID patients survive and that the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System shows that people are reporting more adverse reactions to the COVID vaccines compared to other vaccines.
New Mexico health officials have reported that there have been 5,796 COVID-related deaths in 346,461 cases, which makes the disease lethal in about 1.67% of confirmed cases.
Garner acknowledged that some of the data contained in her lawsuit doesn’t align with what the state’s public health department is reporting.
“That certainly is a hurdle we have to overcome,” Garner said. “So many people have gotten facts from false sources.”