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On The Front Lines

Rutherford Institute Defends Wisconsin Nurse Denied Religious Accommodation, Terminated for Objecting to Flu, TDAP Vaccines

MARSHFIELD, Wis. — The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a Wisconsin nurse who was fired for her refusal on religious grounds to submit to “mandatory” vaccines.  Rebecca Tomas was fired by Lakeview Medical Center after being denied accommodation of her request on religious grounds not to be vaccinated against influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. In defending Tomas’ right to religious accommodation in the workplace, Institute attorneys warned officials with Marshfield Clinic, which oversees Lakeview Medical Center, that the Center’s denial of Tomas’ request for religious accommodation constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII requires employers to make reasonable accommodations when requested by an employee for religious reasons. Institute attorneys have asked that Tomas be reinstated with back pay and granted a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement.

The Rutherford Institute’s letter to Marshfield Clinic is available here.

“This is a timely issue which brings to light the importance of protecting health care workers’ rights, especially those who have sincerely held religious beliefs regarding mandatory vaccines,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Unless her employer can show that exigent circumstances exist, Rebecca Tomas’ beliefs should be respected and she should be appropriately compensated.”

Rebecca Tomas, who was employed as a registered nurse at Lakeview Medical Center in Marshfield, Wis., was terminated from her job in January 2012 after she requested a religious exemption from the Center’s vaccine requirements. Marshfield Clinic, which oversees Lakeview Medical Center, requires that employees be vaccinated against influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. In requesting that her religious beliefs be accommodated, Tomas explained that her Christian beliefs compel her not to pollute her body with the aluminum and formaldehyde contained in some of the vaccines. Tomas also believes that God gave people healthy bodies that should be able to fight disease naturally. Tomas’ request for accommodation was denied by the Human Resources office, which issued her an ultimatum to either be vaccinated or else be terminated. Tomas stood by her beliefs, and was terminated.

In a letter to the Marshfield Clinic, which oversees Lakeview, Rutherford Institute attorneys make clear that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once an employee shows that his or her religious beliefs are in conflict with an employer’s requirement, the employer must attempt to accommodate those religious beliefs unless it can show that doing so would cause an undue hardship. Institute attorneys also cite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s determination that employers must make individual exceptions to vaccination regimens. Pointing out that the Clinic did not sufficiently make the case for how it would suffer any “undue hardship” by accommodating Tomas, Institute attorneys have demanded that Ms. Tomas be reinstated with back pay, and granted a religious exemption, perhaps by way of a lateral transfer, from the vaccine requirements.