ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Jan. 12 that Mission Hospital Inc., an Asheville, North Carolina, corporation and the main hospital of Mission Health System, will pay $89,000 after allegations of religious discrimination.
According to EEOC, Mission Hospital failed to grant religious accommodations to employees who refused flu vaccinations due to sincerely held religious beliefs. The hospital system requires employees to receive a flu vaccination annually. It does allow employees to ask for an accommodation based on religious belief but mandates that they do so before Sept. 1 every year.
EEOC says three employees—Christine Bolella, Melody Mitchell and Titus Robinson—requested religious exemptions to the vaccination, but did so after Sept. 1. Mission Hospital purportedly denied the requests and later fired all three claimants. Alleged conduct of this nature violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
"Title VII requires employers to make a real effort to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees who notify the company that their sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with a company's employment policy," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District office, in a news release. "As a result of this lawsuit, Mission now has practices in place to better ensure that this happens."