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."

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