The names of seven Maine health care workers who had sought to remain anonymous while challenging Gov. Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate for the coronavirus were made public Monday after an appellate court in Boston ordered that the plaintiffs be identified.
Alicia Lowe, Debra Chalmers, Jennifer Barbalias, Natalie Salavarria, Nicole Giroux, Garth Berenyi and Adam Jones all were fired after they sought and were denied exemptions for religious reasons, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit does not identify the municipality where each plaintiff lives as civil complaints filed in federal court do but it does say where they were employed when they refused to be vaccinated.
Barbalias, Salavarria and Jones worked for Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center; Berenyi and Chalmers worked for Genesis Healthcare; Giroux was employed by Maine General Health and Lowe worked for Maine Health, the complaint said.
Maine does not allow an exemption from any type of vaccine requirement, including those for school children, for religious reasons.
The governor’s vaccine mandate for health care workers has been upheld by a federal judge in Maine and by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene to stop Maine’s law from going into effect. Justices allowed a similar mandate for health care workers issued by President Joe Biden to go forward.
The state began enforcing the mandate on Oct. 29. The initial complaint was filed in August in U.S. District Court in Bangor. The Portland Press Herald and sister papers successfully intervened in the case in November challenging the need for the plaintiffs to remain anonymous.
On May 31, U.S. District Judge Jon Levy ruled that the plaintiffs’ privacy interests were not “substantial” enough for them to not be named in the lawsuit.
The Liberty Council also represents Calvary Chapel, the Orrington church that sued Mills early in the pandemic over indoor gathering limits. That case is pending but has been unsuccessful so far in preventing a Maine governor from imposing similar restrictions in the future.
The case will now go forward on its merits. The next step will be for lawyers in the Maine Attorney General’s office to file an answer to the amended complaint.
In addition to Mills, Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, were named as defendants along with several health care agencies.