Week Ending 10/7/16: EEOC v. Saint Vincent Health Center

Schorr & Associates’ Employment Case of The Week ending October 7, 2016

EEOC v. Saint Vincent Health Center, 16 Civ. 224 (Erie) (W.D. Pa. 2016)

This week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its third lawsuit of the year against medical providers who fired employees for objecting to receiving a mandatory flu vaccine for religious reasons.  The cases arise out of the growing determination of hospitals and other medical providers to force employees to be vaccinated to the point where they refuse to accept or accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees.

This newest filing, EEOC v. Saint Vincent Health Center, is a class action specifically representing six different medical employees who requested an accommodation from the flu vaccination due to their religious beliefs.  The Complaint alleges that six specific individuals and 11 employees total were terminated by Saint Vincent because they requested an exemption to the flu vaccination due to their sincerely-held religious beliefs.  This case is especially egregious in that all 14 employees who requested medical exemptions were granted their exemptions while all 11 employees who requested religious exemptions were fired.

This lawsuit follows two other lawsuits by the EEOC, one against Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina and one against Bay State Medical Center in Massachusetts.  In the Bay State case, the EEOC alleges that the Defendant fired employees who did not work in a medical facility because they refused the flu vaccine and also refused to wear a mask because they did not have any contact with patients.  In its press release last week, the EEOC stated:

“In religious accommodation cases, the standard is not whether company officials agree with the employee's religious beliefs or whether those beliefs are the recognized position or official doctrine of any particular religious organization or group.  Absent proof establishing an undue hardship, federal law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for sincerely held employee religious beliefs, even if some may consider those beliefs idiosyncratic. Title VII reflects our society’s belief that the conscience of the individual should be respected and that employers should avoid forcing workers to choose between keeping their jobs and adhering to their faith.”

Our firm currently has six active litigations representing workers who have been terminated because they have terminated for refusing the flu vaccine and/or refusing to wear a mask.  Unfortunately, it seems that the more lawsuits are filed, the more employers become determined to punish those workers who object to receiving the vaccination.

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