Saint Thomas Health to pay $75K to settle lawsuit over mandatory flu shot

Nashville, Tenn.-based Saint Thomas Health agreed to pay $75,000 to settle allegations Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital violated federal law by ordering a vendor's employee to get a flu shot despite his religious beliefs.

Saint Thomas Health requires all workers to get an annual flu shot, including employees from TouchPoint Support Services — one of the Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital's food and environmental services providers.

In 2013 and 2014, Saint Thomas Health allowed the TouchPoint employee at the center of the lawsuit to wear a protective mask, instead of getting a flu shot, due to his religious beliefs. When the employee again requested to forego the flu shot in 2015, Saint Thomas Health turned him down and refused to let him work at the hospital after he wouldn't get the shot, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Touchpoint then fired him.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit against the system on behalf of the employee in September 2018.

Saint Thomas Health denied any wrongdoing but agreed to give the employee $75,000 in compensatory damages as part of the settlement. The health system also must update its vaccine exemption policy to allow employees to appeal their termination if they are fired for refusing a flu shot due to religious beliefs.

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