Employees suing the Department of Energy’s prime for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee over its COVID-19 vaccination policy continued settlement talks with the contractor and a mediator, according to a recent court filing.
Since the Dec. 28 joint status report, “the parties have continued to exchange offers and counter-offers,” according to the update filed Tuesday. With the help of mediator Chad Hatmaker, the parties “have been able to narrow some of the issues to be resolved.”
U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley, who last September admonished the parties to get back to the bargaining table, issued an order Tuesday instructing the parties to file another status report by March 3. The judge in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Tennessee said at the time he had been given the impression the lawsuit filed by six employees against UT-Battelle was all but settled in June 2022.
The mediation resumed during December. The lab employees first brought the suit in October 2021, after the plaintiffs said the policy resulted in them being placed on unpaid leave. But by early in 2022 the employees were back at the lab after another federal court issued an injunction against enforcement of similar vaccination mandates.
DOE, which for more than a year has said more than 90% of its federal and contractor workforce is vaccinated against the illness, is no longer calling on employees to reveal their vaccination status.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has recently announced plans to end COVID-19 pandemic emergency status in May, according to media reports.