Federal judge denies MSU employee’s request to stop university’s vaccine mandate

 View of the Shaw Lane entrance sign at Michigan State University.
View of the Shaw Lane entrance sign at Michigan State University. (WILX)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 3:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A federal judge has denied an MSU employee’s request to stop the university’s COVID-19 vaccine policy.

Back in August, Jeanna Norris, a 37-year-old administrative associate and fiscal officer for Michigan State, sued the school for requiring all students, staff, and faculty to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In her lawsuit, Norris claimed she contracted the virus in 2020 and recovered, leaving her natural immunity to the virus and thus did not need the vaccine.

Norris said she faced discipline or termination from her job at Michigan State due to her decision not to receive the shot. She also claimed the policy violated her fundamental rights to privacy and bodily integrity under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The judge agreed that Norris does possess those rights, however, there is no “fundamental right” to decline the vaccine, referencing Hanzel v. Arter. This case explains that “contraception, abortion, and vaccination” all involve bodily autonomy, yet bodily autonomy has not been deemed a “fundamental” right.

The judge also stated Norris does not have a “constitutionally protected interest” in her job at MSU, and that the vaccine policy does not forgo her rights to privacy and bodily autonomy, saying if she chooses not to be vaccinated, she does not have the right to work at MSU.

To add, the judge stated the university’s vaccine mandate does not cause “irreparable harm” that cannot be properly compensated by money damages. While Norris could lose her job for her decision, she would not be “unlawfully terminated” because the vaccine mandate does not violate Norris’ constitutional rights, as ruled by the judge. Although she would face a financial burden if she were to lose her job, it is not irreparable harm.

Lastly, the judge mentioned a warning from health officials that if MSU’s vaccine policy were to not be enforced, the harm to students and the public could be serious, and that the goal of the mandate is to keep people safe. This, along with the other factors, lead the judge to deny Norris’ request to stop MSU’s vaccine policy.

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