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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Atlanta Hospital Pays $45k to Settle Flu Vaccine Case

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By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

The narrow line between religious exemption and discrimination regarding mandatory vaccination policies was brightly drawn recently by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) settled an EEOC religious discrimination lawsuit by agreeing to pay a fired employee $45,000.

The EEOC charged in its suit that a maintenance employee at CHOA was unfairly fired after being denied a religious exemption to mandated flu vaccination, the federal agency reported.

“CHOA granted the same employee a religious exemption in 2017 and 2018,” the EEOC reported. “In 2019, however, CHOA denied the employee’s request for a religious accommodation and fired him, the EEOC said, despite the employee working primarily outside and his position requiring limited interaction with the public or staff.”

This alleged conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits firing an employee because of their religion and requires that employers reasonably accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees, the EEOC stated.

After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Under the consent decree resolving the lawsuit, CHOA will pay $45,000 in monetary damages to the former employee,” the EEOC stated.

The Atlanta hospital has agreed to review its influenza vaccine religious exemption policy and “pre­sume the exemption eligibility of employees with remote workstations or who otherwise work away from the presence of other employees or patients,” the EEOC reported.

Further, if a religious exemption request is denied, the employee should be able to seek alternative positions within the hospital system. The EEOC stated CHOA has agreed to “train relevant employees” on religious accommodation rights under Title VII.

According to the original EEOC complaint filed Dec. 22, 2022, the employee was DeMaurius Jackson, “a practicing member of the Jewish faith and a member of the New Covenant Congregation of Israel. Jackson’s position as a maintenance assistant primarily consisted of grounds keeping, was confined to parking lots, required minimal interaction with the public, took place outside, and did not involve close proximity to patients, visitors, or staff.”

For more on this story, see the next issue of Hospital Employee Health.

Gary Evans, BA, MA, has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and healthcare workers for more than three decades. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC.