In a revised complaint that they hope will convince a federal judge to block expected firings arising from a COVID vaccine mandate at the Savannah River Site, employees who have not taken a vaccine argued that the civilian nuclear site’s operations contractor effectively pressured two employees into resigning before the official deadline for getting the vaccine.
The new complaint was filed Wednesday by 90 employees facing termination at Fluor [FLR]-led Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) for refusing the vaccine, and U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs will weigh it, along with filings by the contractor, in deciding whether to issue an injunction against the vaccination order.
Childs approved the plaintiffs’ request to revise their complaint on Tuesday, the same day as oral arguments were presented by lawyers for both sides. Judge Childs has taken the injunction request under advisement and will issue a written decision at some point, according to online court filings.
There had been no decision as of Thursday afternoon. Savannah River Site is owned by the Department of Energy. The agency’s National Nuclear Security Administration uses the site to harvest tritium for nuclear-weapon refurbishments and plans to build a factory there to produce pits, fissile warhead cores, early next decade.
Two “resignations” by vaccine refusers occurred in advance of the Nov. 30 vaccination deadline, and should be treated as firings, according to the plaintiffs’ latest complaint. The document said one female employee resigned “in the presence of armed guards” and her decision should be treated as a “construction discharge.”
For the most part, the 89-page complaint revisits arguments the plaintiffs first put forward in mid-October, when SRNS told employees refusing vaccination to turn in their site badges in anticipation of being fired.
The plaintiffs question the language and legality of the vaccination rules for federal contractors, developed to comply with executive orders issued in September by President Biden. In their suit, they suggest the parent companies of SRNS — Fluor, Newport News Nuclear and Honeywell [HON]— are trying to curry favor with DoE in hopes of winning future contracts.
The plaintiffs also claim the joint venture is illegally practicing medicine under South Carolina state law by mandating the shots. They also assert the employer vaccine order violates state policy, although the South Carolina House adjourned its 2021 session in May without taking up the anti-mandate resolution that passed the state Senate.
The plaintiffs also said many people have died after being fully vaccinated— “including, regrettably, the Great American General Colin Powell” in October.
In questioning the safety of the vaccines, the plaintiffs’ revised complaint relied heavily on data submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), an online system administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Anyone can submit what they suspect is an adverse event, but VAERS does not actually determine if a health problem is linked to the vaccine, according to the system’s website.