Every flu season, many medical personnel, hospital staff, and educators are faced with a choice: get the flu shot or get fired.
Most folks cave to the pressure, because in an economy like the current one, you can’t really afford to lose your job. Finally, a nurse from Hackettstown Regional Medical Center in New Jersey has won a lawsuit after being terminated for refusing the toxic injection.
A Warren County nurse was unfairly denied unemployment benefits after she was fired for refusing a flu shot without claiming a religious or medical exemption, a New Jersey appeals court ruled today.
The three-judge panel wrote that the hospital’s policy of allowing religious or medical exemptions to the flu shot requirement “unconstitutionally discriminated against” plaintiff June Valent by rejecting her refusal to be vaccinated for secular reasons.
Valent was working as a nurse at Hackettstown Regional Medical Center, then Hackettstown Community Hospital, in 2010 when the hospital’s parent company began requiring employees to take the flu vaccine unless they had medical or religious reasons not to. Employees claiming an exemption were required to sign a form and provide documentation. Anyone refusing the vaccine was required to wear a mask while at work.
Valent declined the vaccine but didn’t state a medical or religious reason, and agreed to wear a mask. She was terminated based on her refusal of the vaccine and disqualified for unemployment benefits by a Department of Labor board of review after several hearings and appeals from both sides.
The board concluded that the hospital demonstrated Valent had engaged in work-related misconduct by refusing the flu shot, according to Thursday’s ruling.
The appellate judges concluded that the hospital violated Valent’s right to freedom of expression by endorsing the religious-based exemption while denying her secular choice.
“By denying appellant’s application to receive unemployment benefits based only on her unwillingness to submit to the employer’s religion-based policy, the Board violated appellant’s rights under the First Amendment,” the panel wrote. (source)
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have been adamant regarding mandatory flu vaccines, even going so far as to fire a pregnant woman who refused the shot. Hopefully this victory will be a step towards protecting others who refuse these mandatory invasions in the future.
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