COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A former Nationwide Children’s Hospital employee has claimed that it discriminated against her by firing her for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Tina Moore, a surgical scheduler at the hospital for more than two decades, alleges she was fired after being denied a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine. In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Moore said her requests for clarification on the exemption denial were repeatedly ignored until she received a letter of termination.
“NCH did not engage in a meaningful interactive process with Moore regarding her religious beliefs even after she offered to provide additional information following NCH’s denial of her exemption and accommodation request,” the complaint read.
A spokesperson from Nationwide Children’s Hospital declined to comment, citing the active litigation.
According to the complaint, the hospital announced in August 2021 it would implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees. Employees had until March 15, 2022, to be fully vaccinated or submit a religious or medical exemption.
Moore, a Christian, submitted her exemption request in February, the complaint alleges. After her first request was denied due to not using the proper form, Moore resubmitted her request.
In early March 2022, however, the lawsuit claims that a senior human resources administrator informed Moore via email that she was being placed on unpaid leave of absence and that she failed to “provide sufficient information showing that her religious belief, practice, or observance” exempted her from the vaccination requirement. She had until March 15 to be vaccinated or her position would be “posted and filled.”
The complaint further claims that Moore asked for clarification from the administrator and her direct supervisor. Moore was allegedly unable to resubmit an exemption request, nor was she able to provide additional information about her religious beliefs.
On March 11, Moore received an email from human resources that she was placed on work restriction and was to turn in her badge and leave work. A week later, she received a letter that her job would be terminated, effective April 15, “because she was not fully vaccinated and her religious exemption was not approved.”
The lawsuit claims Nationwide Children’s denied Moore’s religious exemption while granting such exemptions to similarly employed individuals. It further argues that accommodating Moore’s exemption — which the hospital was already doing by requiring her to mask, monitor symptoms and test regularly — would not have placed an undue burden on the hospital.
Moore claims the hospital violated Title VII employment laws by discriminating against Moore on the basis of her religious beliefs.
“An employee’s belief, observance, or practice can be ‘religious’ under Title VII even if the employee is affiliated with a religious group that does not espouse or recognize that individual’s belief, observance, or practice, or if few – or no – other people adhere to it,” the complaint read.
Moore seeks compensatory and punitive damages, including for lost wages and “any other appropriate relief necessary to make Plaintiff whole and compensate her for the civil rights and other violations,” according to the complaint.