Hospital Unlawfully Refused Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Belief and Rescinded Job Offer, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT - Memorial Healthcare, which operates a hospital in Owosso, Mich., will pay $74,418 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC alleged that Memorial violated federal law by refusing to hire a medical transcriptionist because of her religious beliefs against receiving flu shots and refusing to accommodate those beliefs.
According to the EEOC's suit, Memorial refused to accommodate the sincerely held religious requirement of the transcriptionist, whose Christian beliefs require her to forgo inoculations. The transcriptionist offered to wear a mask during flu season. This was an acceptable alternative under hospital policy for those with medical problems with the flu shot, but Memorial refused to extend it to her. It then rescinded her offer of employment.
Such actions violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for religious observances and beliefs, absent undue hardship. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-10523) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree settling the suit, Memorial confirms that it now permits those with religious objections to wear masks in lieu of having a flu vaccine. The hospital will also train managerial staff participating in the accommodation process on the religious accommodation policy. In addition, the transcriptionist will receive $34,418 in back pay, along with $20,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages.
"Employees should not have to check their religious beliefs at the workplace door," said Dale Price, the EEOC attorney who handled the case. "The transcriptionist's objection could have been easily accommodated by allowing her to use the mask option utilized by other employees. Nevertheless, Memorial's revision of its policy is a welcome change that will provide broader accommodations for applicants and employees."