London hospital sticks to COVID vaccine coverage as laid-off employees file lawsuits for $700,000

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Two former administrators at the London Health Sciences Centre, who say they were fired last autumn for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, are suing the hospital in separate wrongful-dismissal lawsuits, seeking a total of $700,000 in damages .

Publication date:

July 01, 202221 hours ago3 minutes read (file photo)

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Two former London Health Sciences Center administrators who say they were fired last autumn for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine are suing the hospital in separate wrongful-dismissal lawsuits, seeking a total of $700,000 in damages.

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Former LHSC employees Angela Simpson and Laura Goncalves have filed a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court to seek compensation for their termination eight months ago for failing to comply with hospital staff’s mandatory COVID-19 immunization policy.

In a complaint filed June 15, Simpson is seeking $400,000 in general and special damages for alleged “wrongful dismissal, breach of contract, breach of law, intimidation, intentional infliction of mental distress, invasion of privacy and negligence.”

None of the allegations were tested in court.

Simpson, a support analyst at LHSC who was working from home when she was fired, is also seeking $100,000 in punitive or increased damages to punish an accused or deter similar behavior in the future.

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In her lawsuit, Simpson alleges she requested an exemption from LHSC employees’ COVID-19 immunization policy for “faith-based and conscience-based reasons,” which was denied. She was fired on Oct. 21 and received no termination or severance payment, the lawsuit states.

“Angela has always been a dedicated and loyal employee throughout her tenure, having served her employer for 23.5 consecutive years,” the lawsuit reads. “Angela contends that there was no express or implied provision in her employment contract that she was required to undergo any specific forms of medical treatment as a condition of employment.”

In a separate complaint filed June 24, Goncalves is seeking $175,000 in general and special damages for claims including alleged wrongful dismissal and intentional infliction of mental suffering, and $25,000 in punitive or aggravated damages.

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The lawsuit contains unsubstantiated allegations that have not yet been tested in court.

Goncalves, who has worked in communications at LHSC since 2010, has been working remotely since the pandemic began and was not given a return-to-office date before being fired on Oct. 21 with no pay in lieu of termination or severance pay, the authorities said complaint.

LHSC has not yet filed defense statements regarding Simpson’s and Goncalves’ complaints.

In a written statement, LHSC declined to comment on the two pending lawsuits.

“LHSC cannot comment on matters in court. Our vaccination policy for employees remains in effect. It also applies to providers and contractors within the hospital,” a hospital official said.

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Both Goncalves and Simpson are represented by Toronto-based trial attorney Ryan O’Connor.

In October, LHSC fired 84 employees — including 33 nurses — for failing to comply with its mandatory COVID-19 immunization policy. Of the 84 employees who were terminated, 41 were in non-clinical roles at the hospital.

LHSC has nearly 15,000 physicians, residents and employees.

LHSC announced its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy last August, requiring all employees to receive two doses of vaccine by October 22. LHSC said employees would be considered with exceptions to medical or human rights codes.

The hospital’s guidelines were prepared prior to the emergence of the contagious Omicron variant, a COVID-19 strain capable of partially escaping immunity and inducing symptomatic infection in vaccinated individuals. COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide excellent protection against serious illness and death.

During the Omicron-driven wave in January, LHSC had more than 500 COVID-19 cases among its employees. The required period of self-isolation for infected staff put a significant strain on the operations of the LHSC and other hospitals across the province.

Hospital officials said Thursday there were no immediate plans to change staff COVID-19 vaccination policy, including requiring staff to receive a third or fourth booster dose.

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