KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A temporary restraining order put forth by employees at Oak Ridge National Laboratory asking to be able to work until a vaccine mandate case plays out in court was denied Friday.

Six employees at ORNL filed the class-action lawsuit against University of Tennessee-Battelle, the managing contractor of the laboratory, claiming discrimination against those who requested religious or medical accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In their temporary restraining order, the plaintiffs argued there is no “undoing” of the vaccine once an individual receives it and there is no undoing of their decision to go against their sincere religious beliefs. The resulting stalemate creates an “impossible choice” with ORNL only offering 60 days of unpaid leave as its only accommodation the restraining order claims.

Judge Charles Atchley concluded “it is difficult to view (UT-Battelle’s) treatment of employees as thoughtful or prudent” and that the plaintiffs “deserved better,” however, there is no “irreparable harm” that has taken place as of yet.

“Given the absence of irreparable harm, the Court need not examine whether such accommodations were reasonable,” Atchley said in his order. “Neither is it the Court’s role to determine whether the company erred in issuing a one-size-fits-all accommodation for a group of employees with differing job duties and various time spent on campus. Regardless of the result of such findings, it is hard to fathom that conducting more individualized assessments was untenable for an entity with the resources of UT-Battelle.

“Ultimately, the law requires a finding of irreparable harm for an injunction, and this harm must be concrete and imminent—not speculative or uncertain.”

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia sent an email on Aug. 26 requiring “all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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