California Hospital Accused Of Unlawfully Refusing Exemptions For COVID-19 Vaccines

 | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Rancho Mirage-based Eisenhower Medical Center is unlawfully refusing religious exemptions and accommodations to its employees for its COVID vaccine mandate, Washington, D.C. based Liberty Counsel said.

While EMC said its employees could request exemptions from its mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy using its Vaccine Religious Exemption Form, it didn’t disclose that the exemptions didn’t apply to those who work directly with patients, Liberty Counsel argued in a Sept. 30 letter to the hospital.

The EMC policy states that employees claiming religious exemptions must provide a statement explaining their religious beliefs and how their “religious belief[s], practice or observance conflict with the California vaccination requirement.”

Initially, two employees who were granted exemptions were later given termination notices. They are now represented by Liberty Counsel.

Two weeks after having their exemptions approved, EMC verbally denied their requests, then officially denied them on Sept. 28, two days before the state’s Sept. 30 deadline.

The EMC policy states that its vaccine mandate is based solely on the state of California’s Aug. 5, 2021, state public health officer order. The order states that employees who qualify for a religious or medical exemption under Section 2 can be accommodated under the provisions of Section 3.

The provisions include, “Test for COVID-19 with either PCR or antigen test. The testing must occur twice weekly for unvaccinated exempt workers in acute health care and long-term settings and once weekly for such workers in other health care settings. The employee is to wear a surgical mask or higher-level respirator such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, at all times while in the facility.”

Neither of the employees were denied their request for a religious exemption based on any question or concern about the sincerity of their religious beliefs, according to the complaint. EMC informed both employees separately that the administration believed their religious beliefs were sincere.

EMC Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs, Dr. Alan Williamson, said, “At this point, we’re really getting down to sort of one-on-one communication with individual employees to understand, you know, how can we get past this barrier to get them vaccinated,” according to Liberty Counsel’s complaint.

Still, both employees were given termination notices under the hospital’s disciplinary system and put on unpaid administrative leave for 30 days despite there being no record of disciplinary actions taken against them for cause, according to the complaint. The sole reason for termination is their objection to not agreeing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Liberty Counsel maintains.

The employees will be officially terminated for refusing get the COVID-19 shots by Oct. 30, 2021, despite following the exemption procedures, unless a resolution is reached before then. Liberty Counsel is demanding that EMC follow the law or it will be sued. EMC has not released a statement on the matter.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits EMC from discriminating against its employees based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, Liberty Council argued. The act defines “religion” as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.”

EMC “is violating federal and state law by denying religious exemptions for patient-facing employees,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement. “EMC cannot compel an employee’s compliance with threat of termination if they do not receive one of the COVID-19 shots. This is blatant discrimination, and we will not allow the rights of these health care heroes to be violated.”

In addition to the employee policy, since August, EMC does not allow visitors to the hospital unless they provide proof that they have received both COVID-19 doses. Those who only received one or no shots must produce a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of visiting the hospital in order to enter. Only tests from an FDA-authorized or a CLIA-certified lab are accepted.

“Visitors who do not have the required documentation” will not be permitted to enter the hospital,” the policy states. “The regulation also applies to people accompanying a patient in an Eisenhower Health clinic.”

Required documentation includes a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card issued by the CDPH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, or World Health Organization Yellow Card.

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