Tuesday, July 19, 2016

EEOC Files Suit Against North Carolina Hospital for Its Mandatory Flu Vaccine Policy

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has filed suit against a hospital in North Carolina alleging violation of Title VII for their mandatory flu vaccine policy, which did contain a process by which an employee can object to receiving the vaccine based on religious beliefs or medical concerns (e.g., an allergy to the vaccine's ingredients).  (I had previously written about mandatory flu shot policies here).

From the news article on the suit:
In August 2010, the hospital introduced a staff immunization policy (SIP) that requires employees to receive a flu vaccination no later than December 1 of each year. Under the hospital's SIP, an employee may request a religious exemption to the flu vaccine. The SIP provides that a religious exemption request must be made by September 1 of the year the vaccination is required or it may be denied. 
Once an employee makes a request for a religious exemption, the hospital determines whether to approve or deny the request. The hospital's manager of HR processes requests for exemption from the SIP that are based on employees' religious beliefs. According to the EEOC, the hospital failed to accommodate several employees who had a variety of religious beliefs.
The EEOC uncovered at least 4 employees who appeared to have legitimate reasons to be excluded from this vaccine policy but were denied and either reprimanded or terminated, which the EEOC alleges violates the religious accommodation component under Title VII.  The lawsuit asks the court to award back pay and compensatory damages to the terminated employees. It also seeks court orders requiring the hospital to discontinue its allegedly discriminatory practices and comply with the reasonable accommodation requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

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