From 1819 News staff
The Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (“ACLL”), joined by John Eastman, a founding partner with Constitutional Counsel Group, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of United Launch Alliance’s employees this week. The lawsuit contends that some employees were unable to gain religious and medical exemptions on a federal vaccine mandate.
On August 25, 2021, United Launch Alliance, a defense contactor based in Colorado with a facility in Decatur, Alabama, announced that it would require mandatory vaccinations for its employees. Initially, ULA allowed its employees to apply for religious and medical exemptions. All five of ACLL’s plaintiffs filed for religious exemptions, and one of them also filed for a medical exemption.
All of their requests were denied, according to attorneys representing the employees.
“The reasoning, among other things, was that the company had received too many requests for religious accommodations,” said attorney Matthew Clark.
All five plaintiffs filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has not yet made a decision on their claims.
Employees of ULA protested the mandate, and an agency of the Alabama Department of Commerce, AIDT, that was assisting the plant with hiring for an expansion initially halted operations. However, those operations have continued, according to a statement released last week.
“Part of our mission as Alabama’s workforce training agency is to provide training services for new and expanding Alabama companies,” said Jacqueline Allen, the Assistant Director, Comm. and External Affairs for AIDT. “As previously stated last week, the services we are providing to ULA are in preparation for their impending expansion only.”
The ACLL also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, asking the court to step in immediately to protect the jobs of its clients. For employees already terminated, the motion asks the Court to order ULA to continue paying them.
“Federal law allows these employees to seek temporary relief in the courts while the EEOC is deciding what to do,” Clark, who is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty said. “One of our plaintiffs has two daughters with congenital heart defects. Losing his job would result in loss of health insurance, which would jeopardize his daughters’ chances of getting the medical care they need. Another is not far from retirement and doubts that she can get hired at another company at her age. In all cases, though, immediate relief is needed to protect our clients from irreparable harm.”
The suit claims that federal and state law bar United Launch Alliance from firing their employees if they have religious or proper medical objections.
“The law protects an employees’ rights to free exercise of religion and to refuse medical treatment that could harm them,” Clark added. “Regardless of whether one is for or against the vaccines, we should all be able to agree that a person can refuse medical treatment that violates their religious beliefs or puts their health in jeopardy.”
ULA also released a statement last week saying they are monitoring federal COVID-19 policies daily.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the health and safety of the ULA team and everyone in our buildings have been at the forefront of our COVID-19 response,” said Jessica Rye, with ULA. “We are monitoring daily White House, Department of Defense and customer direction to ensure our COVID-19 policies are compliant. We have received multiple contract modifications in the last few weeks that flow firm requirements to the company from our U.S. government customer that require all ULA employees to become vaccinated.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every facet of life over the past 18 months. COVID-19 also is a challenge for our business, a business that is critical to national security and civil space endeavors. ULA decided to require vaccinations to ensure the health and safety of our employees and to align with our U.S. government customer and industry direction. This places ULA in a much better position to meet the nation’s needs and our manifest commitments while protecting the health of everyone at our facilities.”
1819 News attempted to find out more by visiting the rocket plant last week, but ULA security officer Chris Hamlet asked the reporter to leave the site even though 1819 News was physically positioned outside of the marked security fence and on the public right-of-way along that Red Hat Road property.
ULA manufactures America’s most dependable and reliable large rocket boosters at the Decatur plant. The Pentagon, NASA, as well as the commercial satellite industry rely upon ULA rockets to boost payloads into Earth orbit and beyond. The next launch of a ULA rocket is a U.S. Space Force mission coming up on November 22nd from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A team comprised of ULA, Blue Origin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Northrup Grumman is currently working on a versatile new launcher designated as Vulcan to eventually replace the historic Atlas and Delta vehicles that have served for decades as America’s go-to launch boosters. Competition from newcomers in the rocket booster industry compelled ULA to develop the yet to be launched Vulcan. ULA says it is “investing heavily” in infrastructure improvements at the Decatur plant in order to facilitate development of Vulcan. Work disruptions caused by the loss of employees due to ULA being forced to comply with the Biden administrations mandatory vaccination order for employees of federal contractors could potentially impede progress on that powerful new launch vehicle.
ACLL is a conservative nonprofit legal organization based in Birmingham, Alabama, and it is the litigation arm of the Alabama Policy Institute. For more information, visit ACLL’s website at www.alabamalawandliberty.org.