Staff Flu Shots and Religious Discrimination: Justice Dept. Lawsuit (3/18)

By Justice Dept. - March 12, 2018

The Justice Department announced the filing of a lawsuit against Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, alleging that the County discriminated against Ms. Barnell Williams, a former nursing assistant at the Lasata Care Center, on the basis of religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lasata Care Center is a County-owned nursing home.

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Lasata discriminated against Ms. Williams by failing to accommodate her religious beliefs when she sought an exemption to Lasata’s requirement of a flu vaccine. The complaint alleges that Lasata’s policy at the time required a flu vaccine but provided a religious exemption for employees who could produce a written statement from their clergy leader supporting the request. Ms. Williams requested a religious exemption from the flu shot requirement because of her sincerely held religious belief that Bible-based scriptures prohibited flu shots. Ms. Williams could not provide the requested clergy letter, however, because she did not belong to a church or an organized religion. When Lasata denied Ms. Williams’ request for a religious exemption, she submitted to the flu shot, despite her religious objections, because she was told that her refusal would result in her termination.