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Third Circuit Holds that Employee’s Anti-Vaccination Beliefs were not Religious

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently affirmed the opinion of the District Court that a medical center employee’s anti-vaccination beliefs were not religious in nature. The employee had been terminated for refusing to be vaccinated against the flu and claimed that his termination constituted religious discrimination. His case was dismissed by the District Court. The Court found that although his beliefs were sincere, they were not religious in nature and not protected by Title VII.  This determination was affirmed by the Third Circuit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Under Title VII, it is unlawful to terminate an employee because of their religion as all adverse employment action based on a person’s religious affiliation is prohibited by the Act. Under the statute, religion encompasses belief, unless an employer can show that they are unable to reasonably accommodate their observance without undue hardship.

The legal standard, with respect to the employee’s personally held beliefs, is whether they addressed the fundamental questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters, and whether they are comprehensive in nature and accompanied by certain formal and external signs. When discussing his own beliefs, the employee in this case stated that one should not harm their own body, that he believed the flu vaccine did more harm than good, and that bowing to the medical center’s policy would violate his conscience as to what he believed was right and wrong. Because his beliefs did not meet the threshold set by the standard, the Court ultimately found that his beliefs were not religious. The Court noted that anti-vaccination beliefs could be part of a broader religious faith, in which case, refusal might be protected.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Victims of Religious Discrimination

If you suspect that you have suffered an adverse employment action because of your religious beliefs, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. may be able help. To discuss your case, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our legal team handles all types of employment related litigation.