Worker who refused flu shot has religious discrimination claim, EEOC says
- A employer violated federal law when it failed to hire a medical transcriptionist who refused the flu shot and spray, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has alleged in a lawsuit.
- Michigan-based Memorial Healthcare had offered the transcriptionist a job but rescinded that offer when it became clear she would need an exception from its flu shot mandate to accommodate her religious beliefs. The applicant offered to wear a mask, and the company had a policy authorizing the use of masks for those who could not receive a vaccine, according to the commission, but it still refused to hire her.
- The suit seeks an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in religious discrimination in the future and for monetary relief for the applicant.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on their religion but also requires employers to accommodate their religious beliefs, under certain circumstances.
Many employers seek to reduce the flu's potential impact on their workplaces by offering on-site vaccinations, giving employees paid time off to get the flu shot and launching education campaigns focused on reducing the spread of germs. Some, especially in the healthcare industry, have mandated flu shots for workers.
EEOC has cracked down on these policies in recent years, taking the position that employers may have to grant exemptions for a number of reasons, including religion and disability. It wasn't clear whether the agency's priorities would shift following the administration change, as has happened at other agencies, but the independent EEOC appears committed to many of its same priorities, including flu shot policies.
Experts have recommended that employers limit policies to a subset of employees, grant exemptions as necessary and consider requiring those who receive an exemption to take other measures, such as wearing a mask.