From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
A North Carolina hospital is set to face trial after allegedly terminating several employees who cited religious reasons for not complying with a vaccination policy ( EEOC v. Mission Hosp., Inc. , W.D.N.C., No. 1:16-cv-00118, 8/7/17 ).
Health care employers can adopt seasonal flu vaccination requirements for their employees without violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But employers must “reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says in guidance on its website.
Mission Hospital Inc. set staggered deadlines for employees to request a flu vaccine exemption. The court indicated the question to be answered at trial was if the deadlines themselves were an unreasonable accommodation.
Mission Hospital’s request for summary judgment was denied Aug. 7 and the lawsuit will proceed to trial, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina ruled. The facts of the case are not “one sided,” Judge Max O. Cogburn said, recommending that a jury is the best way to determine which party was at fault. Trial has been set for October.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Mission Hospital after it fired at least three employees for noncompliance with its flu vaccination policy after they asked to be exempted for religious reasons, according to the district court. The hospital claimed the employees were terminated for “failing to follow its accommodation procedure for religious exemptions for the flu shot vaccine,” court documents said.
Mission Hospital declined to comment. An attorney representing the EEOC didn’t immediately return Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment Aug. 8.
“Just as a reasonable jury could find for the hospital defendant, a reasonable jury could find that the defendant was treating individuals differently if they did not request the exemption,” Cogburn wrote.
Employees were notified that requests for exemption were due Sept. 1 and that they must be vaccinated by Dec. 1 if no exemption was requested or granted.
“This is not a case of whether the defendant hospital did or did not believe the claimant’s religious beliefs,” Cogburn said.
Mission Hospital said it rejected the requests because they were filed past the Sept. 1 deadline, the court said. The EEOC argued in hearing, however, that there was a “grace period” for the vaccination deadline, Dec. 1, and not for the exemption deadline, Sept. 1.
But a jury could find either “that strictly-enforced exemption procedures to vaccination requirements protected the hospital patients,” or “that the staggered dates themselves were unfairly targeting those with religious beliefs,” the court said in recommending a trial.
The court also denied the EEOC’s request to strike information from the hospital’s summary judgment request, saying these challenges could be renewed at trial.
To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at email@example.com
The court's Aug. 7 order can be found at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/EEOC_v_Mission_Hosp_Inc_No_116cv00118MOCDLH_2017_BL_275063_WDNC_A?doc_id=XLPSPI90000N.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)