Lawsuit Reaffirms Religious Exemptions for Vaccinations as a First Amendment Right
Erie hospital to pay, rehire ex-workers who refused flu shots
As part of the consent decree, Saint Vincent must pay the following employees back pay and compensatory damages:
- Bryan Nash – $81,712.86;
- Aleksandr Gevorkyan – $81,814.81;
- Aza Galustyan – $54,493.85;
- Joshua Dolecki – $19,608.17;
- Lisa Waller – $29,503.37;
- Beth Theobald – $32,866.94.
In addition to providing the money, Saint Vincent must also offer to reinstate each former employee to their previous job with the same pay and benefits. If the job is not vacant, Saint Vincent must offer the employee a similar job if one becomes vacant over the next two years at any of the defendant’s facilities within a 50-mile radius of Saint Vincent.
Saint Vincent implemented the mandatory flu shot policy to receive the maximum reimbursement for treating Medicare patients. At least 95 percent of the hospital’s entire workforce had to be vaccinated to meet the requirements, Saint Vincent officials said in 2014 shortly after the policy went into effect. Saint Vincent said in February 2014 that 99.4 percent of its workforce had been vaccinated or received an exemption.
Those who sought a religious exemption for a flu shot were told they must provide proof of doctrine from an established religious organization. Several employees who provided letters from clergy were still denied exemptions by the hospital.
The consent decree states that Saint Vincent, from now on, “shall not require proof that an employee’s or applicant’s religious objection to vaccination be an official tenet or endorsed teaching of any religion or denomination.”
The hospital also cannot conclude that a person’s “religious belief, practice or observance is not sincerely held simply because (Saint Vincent) deems the belief, practice or observance unreasonable, inaccurate, unfounded, illogical or inconsistent in Saint Vincent’s view.”
Saint Vincent, which was founded by the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, stopped requiring all employees to get a flu shot after it joined Allegheny Health Network, Laurent said.
David Bruce can be reached at 870-1736 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNbruce.
This article is reprinted under fair usage doctrine for newsworthiness in the public interest. This news educates the public about their First Amendment right to assert religious exemptions for vaccinations.