Federal Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Nursing Home For Flu Shot

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides a number of protections in the workplace to prevent discrimination against employers by coworkers and bosses. One of these protections is the protection against discrimination based on religion. This prevents the discrimination of employees by an employer based on their religion in regards to hiring, firing, pay, promotions, and other benefits. The EEOC says that reasonable accommodation in regards to an employee’s religious practices must be provided by an employer. The Washington Post reports on a nursing home facing a justice department lawsuit due to religious discrimination.

Last Tuesday, March 8th, the federal government sued Wisconsin’s Ozaukee County on behalf of Barnell Williams for religious discrimination.

The lawsuit came as a result of the county-operated nursing home Lasata Care Center mandating that Williams receive a flu shot.

Except Williams is religious and has the belief that her body is a temple. Her beliefs further state that putting foreign substances into her body goes against God.

Williams asked the nursing facility for a religious exemption and was told to produce a statement from a member of clergy or religious leader. The problem was that at the time, Williams did not attend a specific church and could not obtain a letter or a statement.

She was forced to submit to the flu shot or was threatened with termination. The resulting distress caused Williams to fear “going to hell” for defying religious doctrine.

The lawsuit facing the nursing home alleges that the policy of the nursing home violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employer discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, or religion.