CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois First District Appellate Court ruled on Friday that Illinois’ largest health system cannot be sued by a nurse who was fired after refusing to comply with the company’s vaccine mandate, opening the door for other Illinois businesses to fire employees who refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Laura Lenz, a former nurse for Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation, filed a complaint against the company in February 2022, claiming that Advocate discriminated against her and violated section 5 of the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, according to court documents.

Documents show Advocate released a policy in August 2021 requiring employees to either provide proof COVID-19 vaccination or receive an approved religious exemption by October 15, 2021.

Lenz submitted a request for a religious exemption. However, the request was denied by Advocate, which claimed the request was “based on misinformation.” Lenz was fired on October 15.

Though the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act provides protection from forced participation in medical acts believed to contradict religious or conscientious beliefs, the Act was amended in 2021 to exclude many COVID-19 mandates, specifically those that aim to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Having found that Advocate met its burden of establishing that it adopted its Immunization
Policy with the intention of preventing the transmission and contraction of COVID-19, we
conclude that there is no genuine issue of fact on the question of whether Advocate violated the
Act when it adopted its Immunization Policy which required the plaintiff and other employees to
either provide proof of COVID-19 immunization by October 15, 2021, or receive an approved
religious exemption, or when it terminated the plaintiff for noncompliance,” wrote Justice Thomas Hoffman in the court’s opinion.