BOSTON (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission announced a lawsuit against Baystate Medical Center over
allegations of violating federal laws related to religious freedoms.
"Federal law requires employers to fairly balance an
employee's right to practice his or her religion and the operation of the
business," Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for EEOC's New York
District Office, said. "For an accommodation to be meaningful under Title
VII, it both must respect the employee's religious beliefs and permit her to do
her job effectively."
Baystate Medical Center has required all employees to
receive an annual flu vaccination since September 2015, according to claims.
Employees can request an exemption based on religious beliefs, but must then
wear a mask while on the job. Stephanie Clarke, a recruiter in the company’s
human resources department, allegedly declined the vaccination and wore a mask
instead. After receiving complaints from consumers about communication issues
due to the mask, Clarke asked Baystate to help her come up with another
solution. The company purportedly responded by placing her on indefinite leave.
"Employees have the right to oppose conduct they
reasonably believe violates the law, without fear of retaliation,” EEOC's New
York district director Kevin Berry said. “A decision to end the employment
relationship – either through termination or forced resignation – because the
employee has complained about religious discrimination runs afoul of the
statute's clear requirements."