All of the claims reviewed related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and were based on religious beliefs.
With judgment of 23 September 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dismissed claims brought by two nurses against their former employer under Title VII – which prohibits an employer to fire an employee for discriminatory reasons – and the American with disabilities Act (ADA). These claims were related to the termination of their employment due to their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
The Court’s decision on the plaintiffs’ claim that their termination was religious discrimination was based on its analysis of the nurses’ objections to the vaccine. One of the nurses had sought a religious exemption from the vaccine mandate citing her Catholic faith and her previous COVID-19 infection as reasons why she believed she had acquired natural immunity; as a Catholic, she stated she was “required to follow [her] judgement of conscience”. The other nurse had asked a religious exemption since she “sincerely [believed] It [was] my God given right to choose for myself what vaccines I will or will not take”. In the Court’s view, these statements showed that plaintiffs’ decision not to take the vaccine was grounded in their personal beliefs about the vaccine’s necessity, efficacy, and safety rather than religious convictions.
As for the plaintiffs’ claim that the testing and vaccination requirements qualified as a “medical examination” and were in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4)(A), which places restrictions on employers regarding medical examinations, the Court held that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate did not fall under the scope of the claimed provision as a medical examination, since it did not seek information about an employee’s health.
Reference: Bube, Christine et al v. Aspirus Hospital, United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, 15 September 2023.