Brenner grants temporary injunction to Blessing/QMG employees; employment ‘maintained’ until a hearing next week

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Judge Tad Brenner presides over a hearing Thursday afternoon. Pool Photo: Matt Hopf/QH-W

QUINCY – Circuit Judge Tad Brenner has called for a full hearing on employment claims from suspended and terminated workers from Blessing Health System and Quincy Medical Group.

The hearing is set for October 6 at 9 a.m. and until then, Brenner ruled, the employees in question shall have their “employment maintained”.

At the beginning of the case, Brenner wanted a show of hands of affected employees in the courtroom and five raised their hands after Brenner asked for a clarification. Attorneys for the health care providers maintained that employees hadn’t been discharged, but some in the crowd disagreed and Brenner asked for decorum in the courtroom.

Jim Hansen, attorney for QMG, asked Judge Brenner to dismiss the case. Hansen admitted it was a hot button issue in the community and around the state. Hansen suggested Governor JB Pritzker’s office and the Illinois Department of Health should be a part of the lawsuit.

Chris Scholz, who represented Blessing Health System, said a ruling against the health care providers would put them in opposition to the governor’s executive orders and newly written orders from the Illinois Department of Public Health and that could jeopardize the hospital’s license.

After Brenner made his ruling and left the bench, there seemed to be some heated disagreement between opposing counsel on what exactly maintaining employment meant. Scholz had an exchange with the attorney for the plaintiffs, Thomas DeVore. Scholz said that DeVore’s clients “would not be allowed to treat sick people” and Blessing would send the affected employees “to Hannibal”, as Hannibal Clinic is under Blessing’s ownership.

DeVore said “the judge would make that decision” at next week’s hearing and if Blessing unfairly retaliated against any of its employees he would “sue Blessing” on their behalf as well. DeVore currently represents 11 employees who either work for Blessing or QMG.

DeVore has been involved with numerous cases against Illinois school districts, including Quincy Public Schools, regarding interpretations of masks and quarantines as they relate to the governor’s executive order.

“As the judge ruled we’ll have a status quo set for the (October) sixth, that’s less than 10 days, and then it’ll move to a full blown evidentiary hearing at that point in time where more evidence will be presented and not just legal arguments,” Hansen said.

Hansen was more tempered in his comments on the employees’ status.

“There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy on what everybody means by ’employment maintained,'” he said. “I think there’s some confusion there on people thinking they’re terminated when they’re not being allowed into the workplace, based on a policy in regards to what the order and the rules are. So, and I think that’s maybe where some of the confusion lies. So you’re expecting more clarity on that (at next week’s hearing). So let me give you an example, you have an employee who is not being allowed into the building because they are not agreeing to one of these. What happens then is that status quo will stay. Okay, they’re not terminated, they’re just not allowed in. Things will remain that way until the court has a hearing on (October) sixth and we go from there.”

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