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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a North Carolina hospital for forcing its workers to get flu shots, despite religious objections, and firing the ones who refused them.

According to Reuters.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against Mission Hospital Inc in Asheville on behalf of a Christian intake clinician and a Muslim psychiatric technician who were terminated and a pre-school teacher who belonged to a Christian sect and was forced to resign because she would not be vaccinated.

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We can’t pinpoint the exact cases as it seems as though this hospital has historically fired nurses and staff workers for not complying with their mandatory flu shot policy. Here is an article dating all the way back to 2010.

Three workers at Mission Hospital in Buncombe County were fired after refusing to get a mandatory flu shot, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported recently.

Like a growing number of hospitals, Mission adopted a policy that required flu vaccinations for medical staff and employees unless they had a medical or religious exemption.

The Asheville paper reported that 14 employees were suspended without pay for not getting vaccinated by a Dec. 1 deadline. Eleven of those workers got the shots by an extended deadline on Dec. 15, and the three who did not lost their jobs.

This is enormous and wonderful news. The United States is at a crisis level in terms of employers attempting to force flu vaccines on employees, particularly in the medical vertical. A lawsuit of this magnitude could be a big change in the right direction.

Here is the full lawsuit details located on eeoc.gov’s website. We will keep you updated as we learn more.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Mission Hospital, Inc., a North Carolina corporation based in Asheville, violated federal law when it failed to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and fired them because of their religions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. Mission Hospital is the main hospital in the Mission Health System.

According to EEOC’s complaint, Mission Hospital requires employees to receive a flu vaccination annually by no later than December. An employee may request an exemption to the vaccination requirement based on religious beliefs, but the hospital requires that the request be made by Sept. 1, or it is subject to being denied. EEOC said that Christine Bolella, Melody Mitchell, Titus Robinson, and other employees requested religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement, because of their various sincerely held religious beliefs, after the deadline, and were denied. Mission Hospital subsequently fired them. At least one employee was also suspended without pay prior to her termination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs as long as doing so does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Asheville Division (EEOC v. Mission Hospital, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16-CV-00118) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay. The complaint also seeks injunctive relief.

“Under federal law, employers must attempt a fair balance between an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of their business,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “An arbitrary deadline does not protect an employer from its obligation to provide a religious accommodation. An employer must consider, at the time it receives a request for a religious accommodation, whether the request can be granted without undue burden. This case demonstrates EEOC’s commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the agency’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

 



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