Date: October 19, 2021Attorney: Steven I. Adler

A vaccine mandate issued by Rutgers University was recently challenged in federal court in New Jersey. In Children’s Health Defense, Inc. et al. v. Rutgers, a number of students sought, but were denied, a temporary restraining order against the school.

The Rutgers’ mandatory vaccine policy requires all students to be vaccinated regardless of whether they attend in-person classes. The only exemptions are for health and religious reasons or for those students enrolled in the school’s fully online degree program.

The lawsuit alleges that the mandate is illegal and unconstitutional in that it coerces students to take an experimental vaccine, violating students’ constitutional right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. One of the Plaintiffs was suspended from accessing her student account and from attending an online course after refusing to be vaccinated. She sought a temporary restraining order to stop the University from suspending her and requiring her vaccination.

Applying the four requirements needed for injunctive relief, Zahid Quraishi, U.S.D.J., held that Plaintiffs lacked a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims, did not establish irreparable harm because they waited five months to challenge the policy, and the equities and public interest favored Rutgers. The Court specifically found that the vaccination policy was reasonably necessary to safeguard the public interest.

This decision did not end the litigation and the case will now proceed like any other lawsuit. However, the interim decision sheds light on how the Court likely will rule should the matter not be resolved prior to trial.

This is not the first such case to rule in favor of a mandatory vaccine policy. In fact, a similar policy implemented by the University of Indiana, another Big 10 school, was also upheld. As we have predicted in previous articles, such policies issued by local and state governments are likely to be found appropriate as a valid exercise of police power or by companies as a legitimate step to protect their employees and/or customers. We will provide updates in this area as the law continues to develop. Please contact our Employment Law Group if you have any questions regarding the vaccine mandate.