Employee sues university health system for refusing religious exemption from flu vaccine

The university told the employee, ‘Stating that you are a Christian and citing biblical verses that do not address vaccinations is not sufficient basis for granting an exemption[.]’

By Liberty Counsel Fri Oct 23, 2020 – 6:32 pm EST

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, October 23, 2020 (Liberty Counsel) — An employee at the University of Virginia Health System (UVA Health) has been threatened with disciplinary action despite asking for a religious accommodation from the flu vaccine several times. 

UVA Health has threatened the employee with “discipline,” which could lead to suspension and termination if he does not comply by November 13, 2020. 

Represented by Liberty Counsel, this employee has submitted four requests for a reasonable religious accommodation from the UVA Health directive to have the flu vaccine. This employee chooses not to accept anything that would “defile” his body, which includes vaccines made from aborted fetal cell lines or vaccines developed by companies that profit from aborted fetal tissue. 

Liberty Counsel is prepared to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if UVA Health does not grant the exemption request.

It is unlawful for an employer to refuse a reasonable accommodation for a flu vaccine exemption request. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs if doing so does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. Federal conscience protection law for health care workers [42 U.S.C. §300a-7 (c) (2)] also prohibits “biomedical or behavioral research” grant recipients from discriminating against health personnel because employees refuse to perform an activity on the grounds that their performance “would be contrary to religious beliefs or moral convictions.” 

UVA Health denied the employee’s most recent request by asserting: “Stating that you are a Christian and citing biblical verses that do not address vaccinations is not sufficient basis for granting an exemption from the vaccine requirement. Christian philosophy does not have absolute rules that must be followed regarding vaccinations. Therefore, your request is one of a personal belief rather than religious doctrine and does not fall within the allowed exemptions.” 

This employee is willing to wear a face covering while working on UVA Health property as is currently required for COVID-19. 

UVA Health’s rejection of the employee’s religious exemption request is like those in the federal complaint filed by the Justice Department and EEOC in other flu vaccine religious exemption denials. For example, the DOJ filed a lawsuit in 2018 against Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, because the county discriminated against a former nursing assistant at a nursing home by failing to accommodate her religious beliefs when she sought an exemption for a flu vaccine. In another instance, Mission Hospital, Inc., a North Carolina corporation based in Asheville and the main hospital of Mission Health System, had to pay $89,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the (EEOC). Mission Hospital violated federal law when it refused to accommodate and fired employees who declined flu vaccinations based on their religious beliefs. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Federal law protects the religious convictions of employees to avoid making them choose between following their conscience or facing punishment. It is unlawful for UVA Health to force employees to violate their conscience, especially where there are reasonable options to accommodate their religious convictions. Liberty Counsel is prepared to file a complaint to the EEOC on behalf of this employee.” (Click to Source)

Published with permission from Liberty Counsel.

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