A North Carolina hospital will have to go to trial over accusations it terminated employees who refused to take a flu shot based on religious grounds. The provider’s motion to have the case dismissed was denied Monday.
Mission Hospital Inc. in Asheville, NC, allegedly fired at least three workers after they refused to abide by the hospital’s vaccination policy, stating it violated their religious beliefs. A lawsuit was filed against the hospital by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Mission argues that the workers were fired not for their religious beliefs, but rather because they failed to follow the accommodation procedure and staggered deadlines required for those requesting a religious exemption to the flu shot policy.
“This is not a case of whether the defendant hospital did or did not believe the claimant’s religious beliefs,” the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina said in an Aug. 7 order. “Instead, [Mission] rejected requests for religious accommodations because they did not meet a prescribed deadline.”
A call for comment from Mission Hospital was not returned by production deadline Wednesday.
In the order Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. wrote that the case is “not one sided,” and that a reasonable jury could side with either the hospital or the workers. A jury may also find that the hospital’s staggered deadlines for submitting an exemption request unfairly singled out workers with religious objections to the shots.
“This case will proceed to jury trial, as there are genuine issues of material fact better decided at trial,” Cogburn wrote.