The Ontario Superior Court has issued an interim injunction against the University Health Network’s (UHN) attempts to terminate a group of unvaccinated employees.

This comes after six UHN employees — some of them nurses —  brought forward an urgent motion to the court on Friday afternoon, the deadline UHN set to terminate those who had not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The UHN covers Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals, among other facilities.

“The harm raised by the applicants is potentially serious and cannot be undone,” wrote Ontario Superior Court Justice Sean Dunphy, in a decision issued Friday. “It is alleged that some or all of them may be compelled to take the vaccine against their will because they cannot in their personal and family circumstances take the risk of being left destitute by the policy they are seeking to challenge.”

This is believed to be the first time a vaccine mandate in Ontario has hit a legal roadblock.

The document does not outline the reasons why the employees do not wish to be vaccinated nor does it offer UHN’s rationale for the policy.

The interim injunction doesn’t apply to all of the “approximately 180 … in the camp of (UHN) employees refusing the vaccine” but rather just to the six plaintiffs and 19 others who were in the process of joining the legal action when their lawyer, Ian Perry, launched the motion.

It is also not a permanent injunction, but rather pauses the effects of the mandate for a week.

“The affected employees are not scheduled to be working in the first few days of the week,” Justice Dunphy writes. “What danger their presence at work might potentially have posed is not in issue because they will not be working anyway.”

On Thursday, the court will reconvene for a hearing on whether or not the court even has jurisdiction over the matter — as UHN argues it is a matter of collective bargaining that the court doesn’t have a say over.

Justice Dunphy stressed that the issuing of the injunction shouldn’t be mistaken for a judgment on the actual mandate.

“There may be merit to both positions and I need time to be better briefed,” Dunphy adds.

One lawyer who has clients planning to add their names to the list of plaintiffs says there may be broader implications.

“While the Court has only issued an interim injunction based on the specific facts of this case, it will give pause to other employers throughout Ontario which have adopted policies to terminate employees who are not vaccinated,” writes Ryan O’Connor, a partner at Zayouna Law Firm, in an email to the Sun . “It may also cause employers to pay greater attention to requests for accommodations or exemptions under workplace vaccination policies.”

In a statement to the Sun on the matter, UHN wrote: “A small number of individuals sought and received an interim injunction until later this week. UHN has no comment on this matter as it is before the court.”

Written by: Anthony Furey Publishing date: Oct 24, 2021  •  81 Comments
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