Hospital Worker Fired For Refusing Flu Shot Due To Vegan Beliefs Can Sue Hospital for Religious Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Act prohibits religious discrimination. This federal anti-discrimination law means your employer may not discriminate against you “because of” your religious beliefs. The law also prohibits harassment based on your religious beliefs as well as retaliation against you for complaining about religious discrimination or for participating in someone else’s religious discrimination case.

Religious discrimination and vaccines

Federal religious discrimination law provides three separate protections:

  • Your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate your religious beliefs and practices in the workplace;
  • Your employer may not impose its religious views on you or permit your co-employees to impose their religious views on you; and
  • Your employer may not take adverse action against you (including harassment) because of your religious beliefs.

If you have questions about religious discrimination or believe that you have been discriminated against due to your beliefs, it is important to consult with an experienced Atlanta religious discrimination lawyer right away.

Whether a firmly held belief or moral conviction rises to the level where it is protected by religious discrimination laws is not always clear-cut. A knowledgeable Georgia discrimination lawyer can review your case and provide critical advice concerning your next steps.

About this case of religious discrimination

In a recent case from Ohio, Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hosp. Med. Center, a nurse, Sakile Chenzira refused to get a flu vaccine citing her vegan beliefs.

Because the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, the shot is contrary to her moral beliefs. Whether Chenzira was entitled to bring a claim for religious discrimination turned in part on how strongly she held her convictions. Where your beliefs and convictions fall within the definition of “religion” under law your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate you. This includes practices such as allowing you to wear a religious head covering or engage in prayers, as long as it is not “unduly burdensome” on your employer, i.e. prohibitively expensive, disruptive to your employer’s business or a safety hazard.

Here, the court evaluated whether the hospital was required to accommodate Chenzira’s refusal to submit to a flu shot and whether a serious belief in veganism rises to the level of a religious conviction under the law. The hospital argued that veganism is simply a social philosophy or dietary preference and not a religious conviction so it did not have to accommodate Chenzira’s flu shot refusal under Title VII. However, the court rejected this argument.

Instead, Judge S. Arthur Spiegel said, the conclusion that veganism may be entitled to the protections of Title VII and its Ohio counterpart is supported by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations, which define “religious practices” to include “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong” when such beliefs “are sincerely held with the strength of religious views.”

As a result, because it is quite possible that Chenzira “could subscribe to veganism with a sincerity equating that of traditional religious views,” the court determined that her claim for religious discrimination based on veganism should be allowed to continue.

If you’ve suffered religious discrimination, call our Atlanta religious discrimination lawyers

If you have questions about religious discrimination or believe you have suffered discrimination at work, please contact the top Atlanta religious discrimination attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.