Feds for Medical Freedom is appealing its case that alleges a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees led to negative career impacts.

Feds for Medical Freedom is appealing its case that alleges a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees led to negative career impacts. Francine Orr / Getty Images

Anti-vaccine feds still fighting for damages over Biden's federal employee mandate

After the Supreme Court's dismissal, a group of 8,500 federal employees is trying a new approach to score a win against the administration.

A group of federal employees is continuing its fight against President Biden’s now-defunct COVID-19 vaccine mandate, seeking damages despite repeated rulings in favor of the administration. 

Feds for Medical Freedom has brought its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after its case was dismissed by a judge at the district court level. The group alleged the State Department has violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by delaying religious accommodations and allowing discrimination to take place. It also argued the mandate violated the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which places significant restrictions on when the federal government can infringe on individuals’ religious beliefs.

While the Biden administration allowed for religious and medical exemptions to its mandate, the plaintiffs said the implementation of that policy led to hostile work environments and negative career impacts. The same group won an injunction against Biden’s mandate that, after nearly two years, wound its way to the Supreme Court. After Biden withdrew the mandate last year, the high court dismissed the case as no longer relevant. 

The Supreme Court’s ruling vacated a significantly consequential decision from a lower court that could have limited the president’s capacity to issue federal workforce-wide edicts. The ongoing case, however, relies on a different legal argument and is seeking monetary damages. A district judge rejected Feds for Medical Freedom’s effort to organize as a class and granted the government’s request to dismiss all of the group’s arguments. 

It will now have to submit a brief to the appellate court by March 27 and the Biden administration will have one month to issue a response. 

In the ongoing case, Feds for Medical Freedom alleged even unvaccinated employees at State who have received a religious exemption from the mandate have been left out of trainings, official events and balls, meetings and team-building exercises.

They have been “berated,” harassed, coerced and ridiculed, according to the complaint. Requirements for unvaccinated workers to wear masks, quarantine at new posts or to enter vaccination status into a public calendar outed employees who sought exemptions and led to further mistreatment, the employees said.

“The department has burdened the exercise of religion by forcing religious believers to accept invasive and painful testing, stigmatizing masking, loss of professional opportunities, unequal accommodation procedures and a culture of harassment and ridicule because of their disfavored religious beliefs,” Feds for Medical Freedom wrote in its initial complaint.

The Biden administration countered that none of the plaintiffs were disciplined due to a failure to comply with the mandate, nor did they demonstrate any injury resulting from it. 

Marcus Thornton, president of the group, which now goes by Feds for Freedom and counts 8,500 employees in its membership, said after the Supreme Court’s ruling he was “disappointed” in the result but would proceed with the other case. 

“We will be fighting for justice for those whom the vaccine has injured,” Thornton said. “Many in the government overstepped their legal bounds, and we are going to hold them accountable.”