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Judge again sides with MSU in lawsuit from employee over COVID vaccine mandate

Jeanna Norris
New Civil Liberties Alliance
Jeanna Norris

A federal court has again sided with Michigan State University in a lawsuit from an employee challenging the school’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Judge Paul Maloney declined this month to grant Jeanna Norris a preliminary injunction that would have blocked MSU from enforcing the vaccine mandate against her.

Norris, a supervisory administrative associate and fiscal officer, is represented by Jenin Younes, an attorney with the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

Younes argues the policy violates her client’s 14th amendment rights.

"We believe that the Constitution protects the right to bodily autonomy and to decline medical interventions," Younes said.

But, in his response to Norris' request, Maloney wrote that vaccines are in the public interest and said there's no fundamental right to refuse inoculation.

"The MSU vaccine policy does not force Plaintiff to forgo her rights to privacy and bodily autonomy, but if she chooses not to be vaccinated, she does not have the right to work at MSU at the same time," Maloney wrote.

Maloney also disagreed with Norris’ assertion that she doesn’t need the vaccine because she's already contracted COVID. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to get the vaccine even if they've had COVIDbecause research suggests the vaccine provides better protection than natural immunity.

MSU announced this summer that all students, faculty and staff would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of Augustunless they could cite a valid religious or medical exemption.

A few days before that deadline went into effect, Norris requested a temporary restraining order to halt enforcement of the policy while motions in the case are pending. Maloney denied that request.

The judge's denial of the request for an injunction leaves Norris vulnerable, Younes said.

"Now MSU can continue to discipline her and possibly fire her," Younes said. "This (injunction) would have allowed her to keep her job and not have to worry about it while the lawsuit was decided."

An MSU spokeswoman declined to comment on Norris' lawsuit Wednesday other than to confirm that Norris is still employed by the university.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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