Los Alamos National Laboratory has been on the forefront of vaccine research during the coronavirus pandemic, but three dozen employees don't feel that gives the lab the authority to compel them to get inoculated and are suing to block the vaccine mandate. 

The employees are challenging an order the lab's primary contractor, Triad National Security LLC, imposed in August requiring all eligible workers to be immunized or else face possible firing.

They contend the order infringes on their rights and, in some cases, threatens to exacerbate medical problems. 

Lab Director Thom Mason, lab Medical Director Sara Pasqualoni and Triad are named in the 259-page lawsuit, which is the latest legal challenge to vaccine mandates within New Mexico. 

Attorney Jonathan Diener, who's representing the employees, argued the vaccine causes adverse reactions, sometimes more severely in those who already have suffered a bout of COVID-19. He added the mandate itself is a violation of personal liberty. 

"It [mandate] is invalid because people have the right to make their own medical choices," Diener said in a phone interview. "It's not just a question that they're basing it on the wrong science, they're also violating constitutional principles." 

Lab officials, who typically don't comment on pending litigation, didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday. 

In an August memo, Mason announced all regular employees, new hires and on-site contractors and subcontractors would be required to get the full series of shots, and those who failed to do so could be fired.

The order coincided with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to grant full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for people who are 16 and older, giving those who opposed vaccination one less reason to refuse the shots. 

"To meet our laboratory's critical mission requirements amid rising COVID-19 case rates in northern New Mexico and beyond, we must protect the entire work force from the spread of this potentially severe disease," Mason wrote at the time. "The best tool we have is vaccines."

The FDA's official approval of the Pfizer vaccine coupled with the increasing number of infections prompted the lab's mandatory vaccination, Mason wrote.

At the time, the lab estimated only 15 percent of the workforce remained unvaccinated. 

Diener said although Triad is a private contractor, it is tied enough to government entities that it must abide by laws limiting the degree to which the government can force medications on people. 

The lab has mainly followed state Department of Health guidelines throughout the pandemic, such as wearing masks, social distancing, contact tracing and quarantining of infected or exposed workers. The compulsory vaccination also is in line with state directives to inoculate those in critical jobs, which Mason stated in the memo applied to virtually the entire workforce. 

Ten months ago, the lab reported its first COVID-19 death after logging almost 200 cases among employees during the 2020 outbreak.

The state adopts its guidelines, including for vaccinations, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Both cite extensive medical research showing vaccines reduce a person's chance of contracting and transmitting the coronavirus. 

Diener said he finds the CDC and NIH untrustworthy, and was dismissive of what he called its skewed and unreliable research. 

He pointed to citations in the lawsuit that claim other studies indicate vaccines cause adverse reactions and don't make a person less contagious. 

The lawsuit contends some employees with health conditions were worse off getting vaccinated and that they were given no real exemption even if they had doctors backing them. 

Only those who could prove religious exemptions were given a pass, the lawsuit said. Employees seeking medical exemptions were generally denied it and put on unpaid administrative leave, it said. 

Regardless of the claims, the litigation will face an uphill legal battle, as courts have been siding with vaccine mandates. 

A federal judge recently ruled in favor of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's order requiring health care workers, teachers and other employees in jobs with a high risk of exposure to be immunized. 

The judge cited a 1905 case — Jacobson v. Massachusetts — in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state had the authority to require smallpox vaccinations for every resident.

Diener argued this precedent was set before basic civil liberties were legally established, such as women having the right to vote, making it outdated. 

There have been rulings since then, including from the high court, that fall on the side of people's right to refuse medication, he said. 

"Jacobsen has limited validity 110 years after its decision was made," Diener said. 

Still, those choosing not be vaccinated are becoming an increasing minority.

As of Wednesday, about 80 percent of adult New Mexicans have received at least one dose, and 70.5 percent have completed their series of shots. 

(48) comments

Comment deleted.
J.J. Glanton

Great stuff, John Hickens! Looking forward the rest of your multi-volume fantasy series.

Gene C Martinez

So another words you people would jump off the a cliff if the government said too! For the LANL people who don't don't want to jump off the cliff like the rest of the workforce. I really hope it goes good for them!

Khal Spencer

Tell you what, Gene. You jump off a cliff and I'll get the Pfizer booster and we will see who will be alive tomorrow. How about it?

Robert Fields

Hey Gene, the ones going off the cliff are the unvaccinated. Donald, Melania, Jared, and Ivanka all got their shots last April. Most or all Fox hosts are also vaccinated and carry (the horror) vaccination cards. The people dying of covid are about 90% unvaccinated and about 8% who didn’t get both shots or didn’t get them in time to develop enough antibodies. There are fully vaccinated dying, too, but not very many. There are generally complicating factors for the vaccinated who die.

As for vaccine side effects, anyone quoting VAERS is misusing the data there. That data is everything whether related to covid or not. The side effects and even deaths from the covid vaccines are all one in a million shots. So far, one in 500 Americans has died of covid. One in a million and not all are deadly vs one in 500 (with just some vaccinated). Can you pick the scenario that gives you the better odds?

Lonely out on the edge of that cliff? Your misleaders saw the light. Why not you?

David Gunter

People have the right to refuse the vaccination. But if they do then we have the right to exclude them from places and events where they endanger us. That is the crux of the 1905 SCOTUS decision and again when it was brought a similar case from Texas in 1922. One's individual freedom ends wherever it puts another in harm's way. It's a very clear precedent.

Comment deleted.
Khal Spencer

I think this is a good example demonstrating the slang definition of "coredump".

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=coredump

Roger Taylor

So, let me get this straight. These people work in a lab which handles radioactive and other dangerous chemical materials, and where there have been numerous radioactive accidents, leaks, and contamination issues; and soo to work with plutonium. And they are afraid the vaccine is going to damage their health??!!

Paula Diehl

And they're doing so in the service of building weapons of mass destruction while also claiming religious exemptions.

Comment deleted.
Jim Klukkert

John Hickens- please provide credible arguments, with attributions and credible citations for your claim "that vaccine is injuring more people than this "flu" covid virus is."

My reading of authoritative sources shows that claim to be untrue.

My reading of your comment shows you to be a very angry person bent on rage and venting. I am pretty sure that such an approach is unlikely to make for the sort of understanding and healing so needed in these challenging times.

I do, Mr. Hicken, 'hope and pray' and a regular basis. I will hope and pray that you are able to find some peace in this world.

Good luck to you as well.

John Tallent

Selfish folks to refuse what for a current cancer survivor is a no brainer

Jim Klukkert

United Airlines just reported [Thursday 30 Sept] that their pool of unvaccinated employees has dropped 50% since UAL announced unvaccinated employees will have to look for employment elsewhere.

Vaccination Reluctant meet Vaccination INSISTANT!

Anit-Vaxxers seem to have a problem distinguishing Civil, Constitutional or Human Rights from the concept of taking Liberties. Everyone has the right to gainful employment, if one can agree to comply with work place standards such as being on time, well mannered and safe. Safe means vaccinated to most of us, 80% in NM, so please, come along to get along.

Or start your own business, so you can set your own rules.

LeRoy Sanchez

Well said.

Richard Reinders

It’s dropping because UAL are firing 600 people

Jim Klukkert

Richard Reinders- That is not the information that I have. I see that almost "almost 300 more employees had uploaded proof of vaccination," as cited below. Though the Barron's headline read "United Is Firing Just 320 Employees Who Refused to Get a Covid Shot. Nearly 300 Decided to Get a Vaccine," I have yet to find an article that says as much.

I have seen articles that cite the 600 figure that you quote, Richard, but I believe that is dated information

from Barron's: "United Airlines said Thursday that almost 300 more employees had uploaded proof of vaccination, cutting down the number of employees that would lose their job for failing to comply with the company’s vaccine mandate.

"On Wednesday, 593 U.S.-based employees were facing dismissal. By Wednesday, that number decreased to 320, as many employees rushed to upload vaccination cards. United expects that number to continue decreasing."

Comment deleted.
Charlotte Rowe

What makes you think that these plaintiffs have a PhD? There are plenty of employees at the lab who do not have PhD's. Construction, administration, finance, mechanics, custodial service, food service, other laborers.

Charlotte Rowe

This lawsuit has no chance, as is proper. These LANL employees aren't going to get any sympathy from their co-workers. The plaintiffs are just a bunch of "me-first"-ers.

Khal Spencer

Something to read.

The Right to Health

Immunization mandates aren’t new. One helped win the American Revolution.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/30/briefing/vaccine-mandate-covid.html

paul pacheco

Hats off to these courageous Americans who believe in freedom of choice concerning their own right to employment! Protecting the public as a whole is the Lab’s belief and goal whether or not they step on your civil rights or mine! I took the vaccine because it was my choice to or not! The problem is that to hold a job, especially a government contract job [or any other job], means there is a master/servant relationship! I changed my political philosophies because I believe in less government not more, in mine and my families lives! I’m sure our two U.S. Senators are following this NM story. Now that the majority voted for them, maybe it’s time to rethink a position of democrats or republicans, less government or more!

Charlotte Rowe

Seven sentences and six exclamation marks. You sound like a junior high girl. BTW there is nothing courageous about refusing a vaccine. It's sheer stupidity and self-centered disregard for others.

LeRoy Sanchez

So true!

Mark Stahl

Republicans can no longer use the freedom of choice card unless they fully support a woman’s freedom to choose how she wants to live her life.

Richard Irell

Right to employment? What a socialist idea and yet you claim to be for less government?

Jim Klukkert

Richard Irell- paul pacheco’s rant has absolutely nothing to do with Democratic Socialism.

Mr. pacheco is perhaps having one of those terrible day’s that inspires what Khal Spencer tells us is a core dump. That may well be true, but please keep that sort of poop away from my hopes for the future. Pretty please?

Thank you!

Comment deleted.
Khal Spencer

Hey, Joseph. Turn off your caps lock. It just makes you sound silly.

Khal Spencer

Diener claims a 1905 Jacobson ruling has limited usefulness but to my knowledge, the SCOTUS has not reversed it and has had about two years to grant certiorari to a petitioner if it so desired. Interesting read below about Jacobson. Also, since public health orders are primarily a state rather than Federal responsibility, I'm not sure the court would take the case as I can't think of anything in the Constitution that proscribes a vaccination requirement.

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/on-this-day-the-supreme-court-rules-on-vaccines-and-public-health

Stephen Fox

Outstanding! Jonathan Diener, Silver City lawyer, is showing the way to the future and to survival for those who did not get vaccinated. Diener comes from the German word for "servant," and in the Moravian Church, those who assist in church services.

Reading the details of the 259 page suit shows the juridical necessities.

Robert Fields

Showing the way to the future and to survival? We’re just a handful of deaths away from 714,000 Americans dead from covid. That’s your future and definition of survival? That’s a bit twisted, isn’t it?

LeRoy Sanchez

Your reasoning is faulty.

Stefanie Beninato

You, Stephen, who refused to wear a mask inside at grocery stories and at your gallery all during the pandemic. Let's be clear, you are one of the vandals who brought down the obelisk and the only one who would no plead guilty....

J.J. Glanton

I'm sure you divine his intentions just like you knew Mayor Webber wanted you to tear down the Soldiers' Monument.

Joe Danna

Although a minority of LANL employees have filed suit claiming that vaccine mandates are an infringement on their personal freedom, there is another consideration. If scientific professionals are incapable of evaluating relative risk concerning the welfare of themselves and others, they, most likely, are incapable of making rational decisions in their daily work. Thus, voluntary or forced employee separation is ultimately in the best interests of all concerned.

Robert Fields

This and thank you. It’s the whole crux of the issue. It’s not about their “rights”. It’s about their ignorance and inability to spot and mitigate dangers even when it can directly affect them and their coworkers.

Khal Spencer

Gotta laugh, Joe. If we are to use that metric, one only has to videotape people driving up US 84/285, NM 30, and NM 502 and hand out pink slips to the folks driving like lunatics. A KN mask can protect me from a worker's nose trumpet, but not his or her SUV.

LeRoy Sanchez

Excellent response.

Carl Friedrichs

The county in New Mexico with the lowest rate of COVID-19 is also the county in New Mexico with the highest rate of vaccination against COVID-19, Los Alamos County. In addition, it’s the county with the highest educational attainment. Lab workers are critical to national security. I would wonder if any of these lab workers had security clearances whether not they would be jeopardizing those, in the face of refusing to think about the national security of the country.

David Ford

[thumbup][thumbup]

Robert Fields

Probably a significant risk as well. They are making life and death decisions based on what they read in social media or get from dubious other sources - and they don’t seem to even realize it. We also know other governments are conducting influence campaigns through social media, so by extension, these people may even be vulnerable to that and could already be victims of that. At any rate, they have shown they are a risk to others. They can’t even look around at all the others up there who are vaccinated and re-evaluate their own positions based on the collective IQ that rejects their position. It’s like they couldn’t even tell they are driving the wrong way down a highway.

Khal Spencer

Well, its a free country. Anyone can go to court. OTOH, everyone I work with was lining up to get their shots ASAP. Plus, in the 20 years I've been a lab rat, I've had to work in close quarters with people on a daily basis in laboratories, offices, or conference rooms. Getting everyone vaccinated makes sense.

Needless to say, I'm not involved in this lawsuit. And, I'm speaking for myself, not the institution.

Cleve Spence

Money down the drain! They will lose!

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

Patrick Brockwell

This is a free country, they are free to refuse the vaccine, and free to lose their job.

BARRY SILVER

JIM KLUKKERT

a 296 page filing at maybe $500 per page totals $148,000. and that's only the beginning. a that rate of income harvesting it's doubtful that these licensed attorneys will recommend that their clients' case be withdrawn.

Jim Klukkert

Good Point M. Silver, Jonathan Diener obviously has fools for clients.

Jim Klukkert

Mule Creek, NM attorney Jonathan Diener with Santa Fe lawyer Ana Garner, in December 2020 filed a pro bono federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court that argued New Mexico’s public health orders are unconstitutional. “The bottom line is this: there is no emergency,” the attorneys alleged in their complaint.

With 4,788 dead since the Pandemic arrived, these two might rethink their position. Or maybe not.

Robert Fields

Maybe 4,788 dead isn’t an emergency to them? These anti-vaxxers aren’t using logic and are incapable of comparing infection, hospitalization, and death rates between two groups. If they could do that, they wouldn’t be fighting the vaccine requirement meant to protect other workers essential to the nation’s work there.

IMO, these people lack fundamental skills in assessing dangers which likely extends to workplace behaviors.

LANL requires workers in virtually all positions that are able to identify, assess, and mitigate all sorts of dangers. These people have proven they aren’t able to do that. Worse, they have also demonstrated they get their safety guidance from social media and are able to be negatively influenced even in the face of overwhelming evidence their vaccine positions are wrong.

In a workplace where mistakes can easily endanger others, national security, etc, these people have shown they are not up to the task and likely pose other dangers as well. They should all be let go — Not for vaccine hesitancy/refusal but because they are failing a very basic skills test.

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