Updated 3:45 pm
Fourteen Steamship Authority employees, some of them involved in a federal lawsuit against the ferry service, have been terminated after not following the mandate to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The 14 employees account for 3 percent of the SSA’s 525 employees, Sean Driscoll, a spokesman for the SSA, told The Times. “Currently everyone who is working for us either has a vaccine or has been granted an exemption (of which there have been fewer than 10 issued in total). All new employees, and those who are seasonal and will return to work this summer, will also have to comply with the policy,” Driscoll wrote in an email.
In March, a federal judge rejected the request for an injunction against the SSA. Driscoll said the terminations were made after that.
“I can confirm that a number of my clients received termination letters from the Steamship Authority in late March due to their refusal to comply with the Authority’s vaccine mandate,” attorney Patrick Daubert, who represents 11 of the employees, wrote in an email. “Each and every one of my clients performed their duties faithfully throughout the pandemic and several had worked for the Authority their entire adult lives, spanning multiple decades, up until they were suspended without pay in January of this year. Several of my clients did comply under duress with the mandate following their placement on unpaid suspension.”
Daubert referenced two studies he says questioned the efficacy of the vaccines. “It is unfortunate that the Authority adopted and ultimately enforced its vaccine mandate when it has become plain for all to see that none of the available vaccines prevent transmission of or infection by COVID-19,” Daubert wrote.
On Thursday, April 7, Daubert filed a notice of intent to appeal that lower court decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was assigned a docket number on Wednesday.
“All 11 of my clients are party to the notice of appeal to the First Circuit, which was filed one week ago on April 7th,” he wrote.
That appeal is in response to the March 10 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns denying an injunction that would have halted the Steamship Authority vaccination mandate.
The suit was filed in February by 11 employees of the Steamship Authority who claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate implemented by the ferry service violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom. In the suit, one plaintiff said he practices “nature worship,” another alleged that the vaccine “takes its origin in abortion,” and another said she feared the shot “will kill me.” The suit was initially filed in Barnstable Superior Court, but was moved to federal court by the SSA because the employees claimed their constitutional rights had been violated.
The plaintiffs, dubbed the Steamship Employees for Medical Freedom, are listed in the lawsuit as Captain Albert Brox, Kim Fernandes, James Bondarek, Andrea Sheedy, Paul Menton, Christopher Ovaska, Mark Anderson, Timothy Richardson, Steven Ennis, Sonia Simoneau, and Jeffrey D’Amario. The plaintiffs hold a wide variety of jobs, such as captain, purser, parking lot cashier, terminal worker, oiler, ticket seller, and pilot.
The group of employees seek $31,500 in lost wages and $150,000 in anticipated lost wages, according to the suit.
Citing another judge’s conclusion, Stearn wrote in his decision “the Commonwealth (and, by extension the Authority) ‘is under no constitutional obligation to offer a religious exemption to its vaccine requirement.’”
In his decision, Stearns wrote that the objections were based on “philosophical, medical, or scientific beliefs, or personal fears or anxieties rather than bona fide religious practices.”
Stearns described the behavior of the employees as a “danger to the public,” particularly those who travel to and from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate was announced in early January, and in less than a week the ferry service said it had compliance from 93 percent of the 511 full- and part-time employees who are required to get the vaccine. The SSA’s workforce expands to more than 700 employees during the busy summer season.
Employees were required to get their first dose of the vaccine by Jan. 6. The deadline for full vaccination was Wednesday, Feb. 16. The mandate came with a $500 incentive for SSA employees to get the shots, paid out of the ferry line’s general fund.
“We issued 551 vaccination incentive payments totaling $254,400,” Driscoll wrote. “In context, we were spending $12,500 a week to have medical professionals screen vessel employees prior to starting their shift, so from a cost-benefit analysis, the payback period for offering the incentives was less than half a year.”
Updated to include comments from Driscoll.
Actions and inactions have consequences. Good for the SSA.
Glad they were fired. I wish people would stop getting their information from Fox News, which is mostly lies. Clearly this lawyer doesn’t understand vaccines and how they work.
“Stearns wrote that the objections were based on “philosophical, medical, or scientific beliefs, or personal fears or anxieties rather than bona fide religious practices.” ”
This is common with those who refuse the vaccine. Although I would change the wording to “unscientific beliefs”. The science is clear. The vaccine is safe and effective. Claiming otherwise simply exhibits a suspectibility to misinformation or fear mongering.
77 percent of US population has at least one vaccination. 23 percent of 330 million is a lot of Fox viewers. Lawyers job is to defend people.
Not All people can get vaccinated. I can’t get any Flu shots due to allergies. I got one shot while I was hospitalized and they could monitor reactions. Losing one’s employment due to your right to NOT take the vax is Wrong!!
Employees who had a valid medical reason received exemptions.
I 100%agree with you Linda. I feel like we live in the witch hunt days.
Legitimate medical reasons are/were exempt-we are living in the age of misinformation and propaganda-not witch hunts.
Decisions have consequences.
Look at the number of dead people who decided to not get vaccinated.
And the number of people that they infected who died.
No one should be forced to be in contact with the unvaccinated.
The SSA is a high population density venu perfect for spreading infectious dieases.
Curious who got the exemptions and why. The judge argued that the Steamship was not required to offer exemptions.
Wouldn’t be surprised if people got an exemption based on who they know.
If all are required to get the shot, then all should have it.
We are 2 years into a global pandemic that’s killed millions of people worldwide and almost a million Americans, and it’s not over. The vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective at preventing severe symptoms, hospitalization and death. Some people have legitimate health reasons for not getting the vaccine and we should respect that. But the majority are misinformed and paranoid because they get their information from propaganda, conspiracy-theory “news” outlets and social media channels. Some of you reading this wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for mandatory polio vaccines. Some people are so selfish and childish, they refused to do the absolute simplest thing – wear a mask. We are living in sad times when all Americans can’t pull together and do the right thing for ourselves, our communities and the entire planet.
Is amazing how brain washed people are. There are healthy people passing out, dropping dead from the so called vaccine. Young people, athletes. I have been to six funerals in 18 months all vaccinated friends and family. You took an experimental shot, 88% of covid variant infections on the Cape were” vaccinated”. As documented by the CDC. Uneducated fools.
You didn’t say whether the six funerals were for people who died from covid or other diseases. The vaccine can’t protect you from all illnesses, and if you are in poor health prior to getting covid, the vaccine may not be enough to keep you safe. Overall the vaccine is the only way, other than completely isolating, to have any protection from the virus. Chances are that the 88% of vaccinated people on the Cape that got infected with the covid variant did not end up in the hospital or cemetery because they got the vaccine. I would not consider them uneducated fools. People willing to gamble with their health by not getting vaccinated seem to be the fools.
As an 85yr old self quarantined skeptic and M.V 50YR. Vacationeer, I got my 1st vaccinet 4/13/22.
No Vineyard for 2YRS!
SSA must not cancel employee’s
LIVELIHOOD but must mitigate via
Mediation FAIR paid alternatives for its hardworking, dedicated, professional Employees.
Federal Funds should play a role in this decision making process.
The people who got fired can find another job- maybe not such a cushy one, but really– everyone is looking for help. Some businesses are probably even desperate enough to hire
Mask mandates were just struck down by a federal court. Vaccine mandates will follow. You are no longer required to wear a mask on public transportation.
Bill, the liberals are hysterical that the Judge over ruled the CDC on mask mandate on airplanes and other transportation. Look forward to the Steamship Authority giving those employees their jobs back. Fauci must be spinning like a top.
Andy– nice of you to once again tell us what “the liberals” are thinking.
What I look forward to is the day that one of your predictions actually comes true.
I can’t stand the preaching done by people who get all their information from Fox News and other hysterically screaming media full of of misinformation. Shut up already!
If you all want to kill your selves by not getting vaccinated, then you shouldn’t expect everyone else to take care of you or expose themselves to your idiocy. How many more times do we want to hear from someone as they lay dying in a hospital bed who wished they had listened and gotten vaccinated? Because folks, it ain’t over yet…..
Right on, Gayle
The employees that got exemptions are a danger to the public according to the judge. Also, the Steamship has publicly stated that unvaccinated employees pose a clear and present danger to everyone else.
I’m not in favor of having anyone doxed. But, the Steamship should be required to tell us where and how we can avoid these unvaccinated people with exemptions.
Hiding a dangerous situation isn’t making things safer.
But, politically it does sound nice.
Now you might have un-vaccinated and unmasked people on the Ferries since todays lifting of masks. This is an existential threat to the public at large. As some say ”it aint over yet”
Andy– you repeatedly claimed that the pandemic was over when we had nearly 300,000 fewer patriotic American deaths from COVID than we have today. And then when we had 200,000 thousand fewer cases, etc. You even very infamously claimed that we would never reach 1,000 deaths from covid in this country.
Covid is still an existential threat to the public at large. As any rational thinking observant citizen would say — ”it aint over yet”
But the “hysterical” people who are concerned about the safety of the general public are still NOT demanding zero cases or full scale lockdowns despite what you might conjure up, and feel the need to post here.
Comments are closed.