In late 2013 and early 2014, six employees of Saint Vincent Hospital refused to have flu shots– on religious grounds- and were fired. The hospital has now agreed to rehire them and provide about $300,000 in back pay and compensatory damages, as part of a settlement for a lawsuit that was filed, on behalf of the workers, by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September.

The commission claimed that the hospital had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it fired the employees. Although the hospital had implemented a mandatory flu vaccination policy for all employees, they had granted medical exemptions to 14 other workers.

From the article:

“The consent decree filed this week between the EEOC and Saint Vincent Hospital does not constitute any admission of violations by Saint Vincent or a finding on the merits of the case,” Dan Laurent, a spokesman for Allegheny Health Network, Saint Vincent’s parent organization, said in an email. “Although we have vigorously and respectfully disagreed with the EEOC’s position and characterization of how employee claims outlined in this lawsuit were handled by the hospital, we have reached a resolution of the matter in the interest of avoiding the expense, delay and burden of further litigation on all parties.”

Saint Vincent will pay the following employees back pay and compensatory damages, in accordance with the consent decree:

  • 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

As well as the back pay, the hospital 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 has to offer the employee a similar job (should one become vacant over the next two years) at any of their facilities within a 50-mile radius.

As i’m sure you’ve all assumed, Saint Vincent implemented the mandatory flu shot policy to receive the maximum reimbursement for treating Medicare patients. (It’s always about the cash.) But, in order to receive the payment, at least 95 percent of the hospital’s workforce had to be vaccinated. By February of 2014, 99.4 percent of its workforce had been vaccinated or received an exemption.

For those who wanted the religious exemption, they were told they must provide proof of doctrine from an established religious organization. (REALLY?) However, several employees who provided letters were still denied exemptions by the hospital.

Why you ask? The hospital had made a decision about people’s religious beliefs and practices. However, from now on, that won’t be acceptable:

“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 may no longer 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.”

This isn’t the first time people have been fired for not having a shot and sadly, we assume it won’t be the last. In fact, we wrote about one nurse who spoke out about this very thing, not too long ago.

Stay strong nurses and doctors and KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

Source: Go Erie