The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently brought a lawsuit against a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania for religious discrimination after it fired six employees based on their flu shot refusal due to religious beliefs.
In this case, the EEOC claims some employees were granted religious or medical exemptions from the flu shot, but that six employees were denied a religious exemption from the shot despite their requests. Nowadays, it is commonplace for healthcare facilities to mandate that all employees obtain a flu shot to minimize the spread of the flu in medical facilities.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees cannot be discriminated against based on a “sincerely held” religious belief, and the religion does not necessarily have to be a widely recognized or organized one. Under the law, the belief must only be “sincerely held” by the individual.
In this instance, the employees claimed that they belonged to a variety of Christian faiths, such as Russian Orthodox, Methodist, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, and Christian Mysticism. The hospital’s main defense is that the employees did not provide adequate proof regarding their religious beliefs. The hospital’s policy requires certification by a clergy member regarding the religion prior to approving an exemption.
Religious Discrimination is Not Uncommon
The EEOC has brought other claims throughout the country when employees were wrongfully terminated over religious refusals to the flu vaccines in a healthcare setting. For example, the EEOC brought claims when employees have filed for exemptions after what it called “an arbitrary deadline” and also when an employee allegedly could not be understood when she wore a mask over her mouth in lieu of getting the flu shot.
In these types of religious discrimination cases, the employee must show a sincerely held belief and a religious reason as to why they refuse the flu shot. Additionally, the employees will need to demonstrate that they requested an accommodation or exemption from the flu shot prior to the discriminatory action or termination. The employee has to show that there is no undue hardship on the employer when it grants an accommodation, or in this case, an exemption from its requirement that all employees obtain seasonal flu shots each year.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. Represent Employees in Wrongful Termination Suits
If you or someone you know was discriminated against at work as a result of religious beliefs, or wrongfully terminated, call the South Jersey employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, P.C. today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.