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Unvaccinated health care workers put on unpaid leave plan legal action against Akron Children's Hospital

Unvaccinated employees without exemptions were put on unpaid administrative leave by the hospital. Some believe this violates their rights.

AKRON, Ohio — Health care workers that aren't vaccinated began unpaid leave Wednesday at Akron Children's Hospital. 

The hospital released a statement saying, in part, a vaccinated workforce is the best way to protect their patients.

Faith Lanshe used to be a nurse at Akron Children's. She's opting for early retirement after 32 years when she learned the hospital would be requiring COVID vaccinations.

"I've always been a proponent for individual rights and individual freedoms and individual choices to make decisions for ourselves," Lanshe said.

Her religious exemption request was actually approved by the hospital, but she says she is now standing in solidarity with other health care workers who had exemptions denied. 

The three vaccines have been given at least emergency use authorization by the FDA.

"We do want to be protected but I think there are other ways to be protected than taking a mandatory, experimental vaccine," Lanshe said.

3News asked Warner Mendenhall, an attorney representing some of the health care workers put on unpaid administrative leave, why he believes this case could be different than other instances where we've seen the Supreme Court uphold vaccine mandates.

"I absolutely know it's going to be different because even though there are mandates out there for religious beliefs, for medical needs, there are plenty of exemptions," Mendenhall said.

In mid-December, the United States Supreme Court declined 6-3 to hear a case from New York state that would require health care workers to be vaccinated. In that instance, there were no religious exemptions allowed, according to NPR. By not hearing the case, New York's ruling, which upheld the mandate, stands.

This is all happening while Summit County's hospitals are full, according to Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

She had a response to arguments about the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccine. "I understand the hesitancy folks have, in that it's new, it's novel, you don't know what to think about it, but I have to tell you from where I sit, and from what I've seen, it is your best shot at not getting really sick," Skoda said.

We spoke to one of the health care workers who says his religious exemption was denied. He doesn't understand why some were accepted, but not his.

The hospital's statement says this decision to put people on unpaid leave was made with their sick and immuno-compromised patients in mind.

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