A federal appeals court has refused to stop NorthShore University HealthSystem from terminating employees who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

This is the second court ruling in recent days giving NorthShore approval to let the workers go by the end of the year, although that does not mean the case is finished.

Fourteen unnamed “Jane Doe” plaintiffs had sued the Evanston-based hospital chain. The workers claim their sincerely held religious beliefs are illegally being trampled by the hospital’s employee vaccine mandate.

Last month, a lower court denied the staffers’ request to put the dismissals on hold while their lawsuit proceeded on the merits of their case.

The 14 employees appealed that ruling, but today, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court.

The appeals panel did, however, OK an expedited schedule for the overall lawsuit claim of religious discrimination, where the employees could be awarded monetary damages if they win. Arguments are possible early next year.

The conservative organization representing the employees, Florida-based Liberty Counsel, says the plaintiffs will ask for monetary damages and will try again to get their lawsuit certified as a class action, potentially increasing the number of those eligible for damages if the case is won.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.