An Asheville nurse has filed suit against her former employer, CarePartners Rehabilitation Hospital, after she was allegedly fired for refusing to get a flu shot. She was fired in 2016, after a refusal to get a flu vaccine, and filed suit in state court, though the suit was removed to federal court in late 2020.
The nurse had presented evidence of her allergy to ingredients in the flu vaccine and had argued that her religious beliefs prevented her from getting the shot. However, the hospital argued it was merely trying to protect patient safety. She filed suit alleging religious and sex discrimination, as well as violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Some Vaccine Exemptions Are Legitimate
While the so-called “antivaxxer” movement is generally a subject of derision among those who believe in science, there are some situations where vaccination is not a possibility, and those exemptions should be honored. The nurse reported a “severe anaphylactic reaction” to a flu vaccine in her past, which generally meets the threshold to qualify for a medical exemption. After all, anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated properly, and obviously, state policies should not put citizens in danger.
South Carolina has historically had high rates of vaccinations, in part because state law does not permit “personal exemptions” for vaccines, instead requiring proof of a medical condition or a religious objection. However, religious objections in particular are both easier to qualify for, and arguably more prevalent than those with medical conditions. No questions are asked about one’s particular faith, and too many people choose to take advantage of the religious option when in reality they simply do not wish to be vaccinated.
The Right To Sue
In the nurse’s case, she alleged in her filings that she was not told that she had to seek an exemption yearly, and she was unable to obtain it by the deadline. As a result, the hospital fired her, claiming she had not complied. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that there was reason to believe that CarePartners had discriminated against the nurse, granting her a Right to Sue letter. Once you are granted the right to sue after an EEOC investigation, you may file suit based on the relevant law—in this case, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the ADA.
The nurse is seeking a permanent injunction against CarePartners preventing them from any further discriminatory behavior, as well as back pay and damages. If you believe that you have been involved in a similar incident, you may be able to seek the same types of damages, or you may simply want your job back. Each case is different, but if you are able to establish a bona fide medical exemption or other extenuating circumstances, you should have the right to seek redress if you have been unjustly terminated.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
Some people refuse vaccines because of debunked theories, but some have very legitimate concerns. If you are one of them, and you believe that you have been discriminated against at work due to your refusing a vaccine, calling an experienced South Carolina employment discrimination attorney is crucial. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is ready to assist you with your case. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts to schedule a consultation today.