Be willing to step out of line
“You have a week to reconsider or we’ll consider this your voluntary termination”. It was January 11th of 2012, and I remember it like it was yesterday. What I was supposed to reconsider was getting mandatory vaccinations of both a TDap and Flu vaccine to keep my job as a dialysis nurse.
Let me back up a little and tell you my whole story. I started my first nursing job in September of 2010 at a small local hospital in the dialysis department. I was considered “pool” or as needed staff, however, I worked about 20 hours consistently.
It took me less time than most to get through orientation and start on the floor. Since dialysis is a specialized department, there’s a lot to learn and a lot that goes into doing dialysis safely.
My first raise was in less than a year and at the time, I was thanked for my hard work ethic, competence, and patient skills. I knew my job well, showed up to work and took good care of my patients. I never had any complaints from either patients or staff about my work.
In July of 2011, our little local hospital was bought out by a larger, regional health system. They had built a brand-new hospital down the road and had a lot of flashy equipment, but patient care and satisfaction had gone down.
In September of that same year, I received an email stating that all employees would be required to get a flu vaccine as well as caught up on the TDap if needed. This was required by early November.
In October, I filed a request for a religious exemption stating my beliefs for why I wouldn’t be getting a flu shot. I heard nothing until one day several months later when I was told, at work with no warning, that I would be having a meeting with HR and infection control.
I had no warning and no time to prepare anything at all. I was taken into the meeting that afternoon. I was questioned by both HR and infection control about my beliefs and why I felt I could be exempted etc. It definitely felt like a legal deposition more than a meeting.
After that, a week or two went by. Then HR informed me that I would be put on an unpaid leave until they could figure out my case. This was about 2 weeks before Christmas. So, I was not allowed to work and had to leave my co-workers shorthanded as well.
When I hadn’t heard anything yet, the week after Christmas I called HR to inquire what was going on and when I would be able to return to work. She informed me that most of the staff were out that week due to the holidays and wouldn’t be back in until the following week.
Well, I didn’t hear anything the following week and then finally got that call on January 11th informing me that I had a week to reconsider or I would be terminated, voluntarily of course. Except, there was nothing voluntary about it.
I immediately called the Rutherford Institute who deals with cases like this. When they contacted the hospital, they requested proof that they were representing me. But, since Rutherford was not in my state, they couldn’t represent me.
I then got in touch with Alan Philips from Vaccine Rights. He kindly spoke with me for roughly an hour, but again couldn’t do much because he was in another state.
I honestly went the whole summer not even thinking about this because we were going through a lot personally (more on that in a few). I was also in Germany that summer for my husband job. With being pregnant, a toddler, and a big time change, it was difficult to pursue.
I think it was roughly October when I decided that I really wanted to pursue the case. The Rutherford Institute put me in touch with a lawyer in my state, but he was not experienced in employment law. He gave me another lawyer who was into employment law, but wanted several thousand down for a retained plus a large percentage of whatever was awarded if we won. I had just lost my job and didn’t have that kind of money.
So, I pursued the case myself. I started researching and I filed a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC in my state. I actually responded to the investigator’s questioning all by myself. Through the investigation, they did find that there was a case for discrimination and things were getting serious. I was ok until the hospital’s lawyer called me up and was very unkind and asked what I “wanted to get out of this whole thing”. At that point, I knew I should probably lawyer up.
We were still struggling financially and I still didn’t have several thousand to drop on a retainer fee. Fortunately, the employment lawyer I talked to put me in touch with yet another employment lawyer that he knew who would take on my case with no money up front, but would take a larger percentage of whatever was awarded.
At this point, he took over. He encouraged me to settle out of court because the trial process is long and grueling (including a deposition where he basically told me they would try to trip me up with my own words).
We decided to sue for lost wages and lawyer fees. Since I was pool staff, at first he didn’t think I would be able to be awarded much, but I had proof that I had consistently worked 30-40 hours a week during the time I was employed.
We did end up settling out of court and the hospital was also fined from the EEOC. To my knowledge they have changed their policy, which was my intention. By the time everything was said and done, I didn’t have much gain in the financial department, but I had accomplished my goal of working to make sure the hospital couldn’t do this to anyone else. My whole case start to finish took roughly 18 months.
If you’re having hesitations about getting the jab, you can read my post here about what you need to know before you get the covid vaccine.
If you are facing a similar situation, I want to offer you some guidance on what I wish I would have known when this first happened to me. Since I was kind of jumped on with little to know preparation in that first meeting, here is what I wish I would have known.
Know Your Rights
It’s so important that you know your rights. If you don’t know your rights, you have no idea what your employer can and cannot legally do.
It is illegal to mandate the covid vaccine! According to this article from Stat News, it is illegal for employers to require a covid vaccine as it is not formally approved, but rather under Emergency Use Authorization.
The FDA guidance on EAU states that they have to “ensure that recipients are informed to the extent practicable given the applicable circumstances … That they have the option to accept or refuse the EUA product …”
Dr. Amanda Cohn also stated
“vaccines are not allowed to be mandatory. So, early in this vaccination phase, individuals will have to be consented and they won’t be able to be mandatory.”
Cohn later affirmed that this prohibition on requiring the vaccines applies to organizations, including hospitals
Along with that, according to Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 You can read more about how Title VII applies specifically to vaccines in this article. According to Title VII, religious beliefs are defined as “religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others. An employee’s belief 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 or practice, or if few – or no – other people adhere to it. Title VII’s protections also extend to those who are discriminated against or need accommodation because they profess no religious beliefs.”
This means that you could in essence have your own religion with your own beliefs, and your employer would have to make a reasonable attempt to accommodate those beliefs. It is my understanding that they also cannot ask you to “prove” or get a signature from a priest or pastor regarding your beliefs.
Secondly, the Nuremberg Code was instated after the atrocities of Hitler’s medical experiments on prisoners was discovered. According to this code, people may not be subjected to medical procedures (which a vaccine is) by coercion, force, duress, or fraud.
Lastly, coercion is illegal in the workplace. I don’t know about you, but I have heard many stories of employers offering incentives for employees to get vaccinated as well as only allowing employees to come to company events if they are fully vaccinated. I believe this is both coercion as well as discrimination and I wouldn’t be afraid to file a complaint stating such with your Human Resources department.
For the Military
If you are in the military, it’s important that you know your rights as well. I have had family in the military, but I’m not in the military so I do not know or have experience personally with filing an exemption that way. However, I did find this post helpful.
It looks like even in the military that you can file for a religious exemption. You can read more about that here. If you don’t want to take it, it looks like you’re in good company as many have spoken up to say they’ll quit before taking it.
File Your Exemption
I don’t think that exemptions should be required, “No” should be enough. However, if you want to have legal recourse, you need to file an exemption. Now, I filed a religious exemption and that’s what I would recommend. Alan Philips has some great resources on how to file an exemption in the legal way.
For United Solutions also has a lot of exemptions that you can use. Please do consider donating for use of their services.
Once you have your exemption written, you’ll want to email it both to HR and copy your personal email address on there too so you have record of when and what you emailed. In fact, I would recommend forwarding all emails you receive from your workplace to a personal email as well as copying your personal email on any emails you send. This will give you an accurate record of what happened and when in case you need to refer back to it.
For some companies, this will be enough and you’ll have no further issues. For others, they may ask questions or push. Be willing to push back a little with what you’ve learned about your rights. Don’t be afraid to use words like discrimination and coercion. No HR department wants to deal with that.
Be willing to Step out of Line
Some of you have written me and said something to the effect of “I cannot afford to lose my job”. Well, I couldn’t either. At the time, my husband ran a small construction company with a handful of employees.
Remember what happened in 2008? The housing market completely crashed. Yes, he had work lined up for awhile there, but for the past winter, I had pretty much supported our small family with my nursing job. Due to his lack of work and some poor record-keeping by our bookkeeper, we were struggling.
After I lost my job in January, he was in the process of merging with a commercial construction company so he could support us again. He started traveling often and was gone a lot, so I struggled to find childcare that would allow the crazy hours of a nursing job. I also found myself pregnant again that year. Our car broke down and we didn’t even have enough money to fix it. I walked for my errands that summer.
But God. Now, I’m not going to say it was easy. Doing the right thing rarely is the easy option. In fact, it was grueling and terrible for months. I cried a lot. My husband struggled with some depression during that time. And, looking back, I’m not even sure how we made ends meet. Actually, I do. God cared for us and provided for us in amazing ways.
Someone paid to fix our car while we were gone over the summer and I got a full time job in the fall. God provided for us and used others to encourage us and increase our dependence on Him. All that to say, I feel like if we want to stand up for our rights, which I believe is the right thing to do, God will take care of us. Growth is always uncomfortable though.
Talk to those in your work place and see if there are others that feel the same way for support. If it comes down to it, I would let them fire you (or “voluntarily terminate” you) as this will give you legal recourse. I also know for a fact that there are plenty of employers that are not requiring vaccines. So, you should be able to find another job that respects it’s employees or even start your own business!
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