Mission Hospital heads to trial over allegations it fired employees who refused flu shot

Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Hospital will head to trial over allegations it terminated the contracts of at least three employees who refused to receive a flu shot based on religious grounds, according to McKnight's Long Term Care News.

The provider's motion to dismiss the case was denied Aug. 7. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against the hospital following the dismissal of at least three hospital employees who refused to abide by the institution's vaccination policy. The employees alleged the policy violated their religious beliefs, according to the report.

Hospital officials said the employees were not terminated because of their beliefs. Rather, the employees "failed to follow the accommodation procedure and staggered deadlines required for those requesting a religious exception to the flu shot policy," the report states.

"This is not a case of whether the defendant hospital did or did not believe the claimant's religious beliefs. Instead, it rejected requests for religious accommodations because they did not meet a prescribed deadline," the order states. "At this stage in the proceeding, the court will assume — taking all facts in plaintiff's favor — … the claimants had sincerely held beliefs, communicated those beliefs to the employer and adverse employment action was then taken for that reason."

A trial date for the case was not disclosed.

In a statement to Becker's Hospital Review, Ann Young, general counsel for Mission Health, said "We respect the decision of Judge Max Cogburn, Jr. in this case and look forward to the next step to present information and continue toward a resolution. As always, our top priority and utmost concern is for the safety and care of our patients, families, and team members, which is precisely the reason we have a flu vaccination policy."

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