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Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to Eisenhower Medical Center (EMC) on behalf of two employees and numerous others who have been unlawfully discriminated against regarding religious exemptions and accommodations from the COVID shot mandate.

EMC invited its employees to participate in a process where they could request exemption from the mandatory COVID-19 shot policy, using EMC’s Vaccine Religious Exemption Form. The form allows employees to indicate a religious reason for declining vaccination, conditioned on providing a statement explaining the employee’s religious beliefs and further conditioned on a statement explaining how those “religious belief[s], practice or observance conflicting with the California vaccination requirement.”

However, the form does not advise employees that patient-facing employees, those who work directly with patients, are disqualified from receiving a religious exemption. In fact, the EMC form purports to base the mandate solely on the State of California’s August 5, 2021, mandate. For EMC to not consider that patient-facing employees would seek exemptions demonstrates the denials are arbitrary and pretextual.

While having conditionally approved the two employees’ religious exemption requests on September 10, 2021, EMC demonstrated that accommodations could be easily provided as requested. EMC then denied their requests verbally two weeks later on September 24, 2021, and then officially on September 28, 2021. This was just two days before California’s September 30 deadline to receive the last Pfizer or Moderna injection, or the Johnson & Johnson injection.

EMC relies on the State Public Health Officer Order (CDPH) of August 5, 2021, which demonstrates that those employees who qualify for a religious or medical exemption under Section 2 can be accommodated under the provisions of Section 3. Those provisions include, “Test for COVID-19 with either PCR or antigen test. The testing must occur twice weekly for unvaccinated exempt workers in acute health care and long-term settings and once weekly for such workers in other health care settings. The employee is to wear a surgical mask or higher-level respirator such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, at all times while in the facility.”

EMC relies on the State Public Health Officer Order (CDPH) of August 5, 2021, which demonstrates that those employees who qualify for a religious or medical exemption under Section 2 can be accommodated under the provisions of Section 3. Those provisions include, “Test for COVID-19 with either PCR or antigen test. The testing must occur twice weekly for unvaccinated exempt workers in acute health care and long-term settings and once weekly for such workers in other health care settings. The employee is to wear a surgical mask or higher-level respirator such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, at all times while in the facility.”

Neither of the employees were denied their request for a religious exemption based upon any question or concern over the sincerity of their religious beliefs. In fact, both were informed that EMC believed that they hold sincere religious beliefs.

EMC Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs, Dr. Alan Williamson said, “At this point, we’re really getting down to sort of one on one communication with individual employees to understand, you know, how can we get past this barrier to get them vaccinated.”

On September 28, 2021, both employees received two additional documents (EMC’s Counseling Forms and EMC’s Grievance and Due Process Policy dated June 24) indicating that they were being terminated under EMC’s disciplinary system. An explanation is required to be placed in the summary of the Counseling Form from their supervisor as to what the performance issue, behavior, or incident was and what the employees must do to correct the performance deficiency and/or improve behavior.

Both employees were put on unpaid administrative leave for 30 days and will be terminated for failure to receive the COVID-19 shot by October 30, 2021. While EMC officials issued a copy of its Grievance and Due Process Policy, they failed to follow that policy’s first step which requires the Program Director to advise the employees of their right to an unbiased appeal process that could include suspension with continued salary and benefits up until the date of the final appeal.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits EMC from discriminating against its employees based on their sincerely held religious beliefs and it defines “religion” as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief. Simply put, an employer violates Title VII if it makes employment decisions related to an employee based solely upon that individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Eisenhower Medical Center is violating federal and state law by denying religious exemptions for patient-facing employees. EMC cannot compel an employee’s compliance with threat of termination if they do not receive one of the COVID-19 shots. This is blatant discrimination, and we will not allow the rights of these health care heroes to be violated.”

Author: Liberty Counsel