FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, June 12, 2023
Chris Mulcahey [email protected]
UMLC Secures Two Victories in COVID-19 Unemployment Cases and Prepares for Supreme Court Appeal in One
Golden Valley, MN – Today, the Upper Midwest Law Center celebrates two significant victories in unemployment cases before the Minnesota Court of Appeals (COA). The court ruled in favor of Mitchel Benish and Rachel Millington in Benish v. Berkley Risk Administrators Trust Company, LLC and Millington v. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, respectively, reversing the denial of unemployment benefits and recognizing their religious beliefs as valid grounds for declining to comply with their employers’ COVID-19 vaccination policies. As a result of the decisions, UMLC’s clients will be paid unemployment benefits for the time they were unemployed.
In one other case also decided by the Minnesota Court of Appeals today, Goede v. Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, the Court affirmed the denial of benefits to Relator Tina Goede. This is despite Goede’s sworn testimony that she objected to the COVID-19 vaccine based on her religious beliefs, including her belief that her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and her personal objection to vaccines manufactured using or tested on a cell line derived from an aborted fetus. UMLC will appeal this decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In all three cases, UMLC argued that these individuals’ refusal to be vaccinated was based on sincerely held religious beliefs protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The COA agreed in each that the First Amendment applied, yet reached different results based on its review of the evidence.
With these two victories, the Upper Midwest Law Center has secured six victories in seven COVID-19 vaccine-related unemployment cases. These cases and the victories demonstrate UMLC’s commitment to individual liberties in the face of state discrimination—this time by the Department of Employment and Economic Development—against people of faith. UMLC also represents nine individuals in cases directly against their employers for terminating them because of their religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are pleased that the Court recognized Mr. Benish and Ms. Millington’s sincerely held religious beliefs and reversed the decision of the unemployment law judge,” said James Dickey, Senior Counsel for the Upper Midwest Law Center. “These decisions affirm that where employers have policies that contradict religious beliefs, and people of faith stick to their beliefs even while getting fired, the state can’t deny them the ‘soft landing’ that unemployment insurance was designed to provide. In Ms. Goede’s case, we think the Court of Appeals simply got it wrong, and we will appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”
Read the full opinions: