A woman has filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin’s Ozaukee County, claiming her employer Lasata Care Center told her
she had to get a flu shot even after she informed them about her religious objections.
Lasata Care Center, a nursing home in Cedarburg, Wisconsin required all employees to get a flu shot, unless they provided documentation from their clergy leader that their religion beliefs prohibited them from doing so. Barnell Williams didn’t belong to a church during that time, so she told her employer that she couldn’t give them any documentation. They still required her to get the shot by Oct. 25, 2016 or risk termination.
Williams ended up getting the vaccine and became emotionally distraught afterward and cried a lot.
“Williams suffered severe emotional distress from receiving the flu shot in violation of her religious beliefs, including withdrawing from work and her personal life, suffering from sleep problems, anxiety, and fear of
‘going to Hell’ because she had disobeyed the Bible by receiving the shot,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that the nursing home’s policy went against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that forbids employers from discriminating against employees over gender, sex or religious beliefs.
Assistant Attorney General John Gore for the Civil Rights Division said that employees shouldn’t be forced to choose between their religion and their job.
“Employers should take care not to craft policies that disfavor individuals because of their sincerely held religious beliefs or practices in violation of Title VII,” he said.
The nursing home has since gotten rid of the rule that employees must provide a written note from a clergy member to avoid vaccination.
Williams is seeking compensatory damages as well as injunctive and other appropriate relief.
This isn’t the first time an employer has been accused of discriminating against someone for
refusing to get a flu shot. In January, Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina settled an $89,000 with Christian and Muslim employees who were fired after refusing to get a flu shot.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit on behalf of three employees in April 2016, claiming the hospital violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In addition to the payment, Mission Hospital agreed to revise its immunization policy to make it simpler for workers to request a flu shot exemption. The hospital is also required to conduct yearly training for managers and supervisors on Title VII.