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Showing posts with label sincerely held religious belief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sincerely held religious belief. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Fake News Alert - TX & Abbott with Employer Anti-Vaccine Mandate

Everywhere you look, the media is saying TX isn't permitting employer vaccine mandates, but that is NOT what is happening. To be clear, vaccine mandates are still permissible in TX. 


You can read Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-40 here


As you can clearly see, all the Order prohibits are vaccine mandates that do not provide a mechanism for those who object to the "vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19." 


This is almost entirely consistent with existing law and how, just about, every court case is shaking out with respect to vaccine mandates, with a few minor wrinkles that can't be ignored. The two wrinkles in the Order are:

  1. Not utilizing the term "sincerely held" prior to "religious beliefs," which thereby seems to expand the standard in protecting religion, which doesn't appear legally problematic; and, 
  2. Misstating the disability / handicap prong. 
    • Under existing disability / handicap law, an accommodation is never available just because the existence of a disability / handicap renders the policy (i.e., vaccination) unnecessary, which appears to be the intention of the wording where it states, "including prior recovery from COVID-19." 
    • Instead, under existing law, an accommodation is only available where a disability or handicap requires an accommodation for equality to exist. Stated otherwise, one needs a qualifying disability to receive an accommodation in the first instance, without it, there is nothing to accommodate. 
    • To be clear, under existing law, having had recovered from COVID-19 is NOT a disability that is recognized. We wonder how this aspect of the Order will shake out and more so, how the Supremacy Clause will shake out if / when the Federal Government responds.  


Do you see the distinction? Does the distinction matter?




Friday, September 17, 2021

Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs are Undermined by Social Media Posts About Politics

If you want to avoid a workplace vaccine mandate, be very careful what you post on social media about politics and vaccines.


According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Questions and Answers: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace, "[s]ocial, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not “religious” beliefs protected by Title VII." This is cited in the EEOC Compliance Manual § 12–I(A)(1).


Instead, per the EEOC, a religious belief concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death."


To qualify for a vaccine exemption, you need a religious or medical reason, not a political one. 


In fact, employers are already combing the internet to confirm whether your claimed religious belief is insincere and merely a manifestation of your politics. Taking this a step further, if you sue your employer for failing-to-accommodate your religious beliefs, be warned that your social media posts are fair game and are a gold mine for a good trial lawyer who will tear you apart on the stand. 


As background, the underpinnings of the EEOC's position stems from the United States Supreme Court, which first set the test for a sincerely held religious belief in U.S. v. Seeger, when conscientious-objectors sought accommodations from service in the armed forces (a/k/a, draft exemptions). Per the Supreme Court, the test is "whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption." This test was adopted to the employment discrimination context by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Protos v. Volkswagen of America, Inc. 


Back to you. An employer can and should challenge whether you sincerely hold your espoused religious belief before granting you an accommodation from its rules and policies, like a vaccine mandate. 


As an illustration of what you are looking at in such a challenge, see the case of Sidelinger v. Harbor Creek School Distr., where an employee sought a religious exemption from his employer's "requirement of wearing an identification badge" because of his claims that wearing a badge evoked the "sins of pride and hypocrisy contrary to his religious belief... [as] an old-fashioned, very conservative Roman Catholic." In the case, the District Court made clear that while it would not question the truth of the belief, it would certainly question whether the employee truly held that belief. Further, the Court emphasized that it is an employee's burden "to show that he holds a sincere religious belief in conflict with his employer's requirements." Finally, the Court explained that an employee's sincerity and credibility are the basis for a factbinder's assessment, which includes internet posts. By the way, the Court found that the employee did NOT qualify for a religious accommodation. 


Are your claimed religious objections to the COVID vaccine sincere or BS political crap? 





Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Vaccines vs. Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs - First Round Goes to Religion

The Federal Court for the Northern District of New York has enjoined vaccine mandates based upon sincerely held religious beliefs by way of issuing a Temporary Restraining Order in the case of Dr. A v. Hochul.  


Here is how the plaintiffs' argued that the vaccine violate their sincerely held religious beliefs - "vaccines [] were tested, developed or produced with fetal cells line derived from procured abortions." According to the plaintiffs:

 Johnson & Johnson/Janssen: Fetal cell cultures are used to produce and manufacture the J&J COVID-19 vaccine and the final formulation of this vaccine includes residual amounts of the fetal host cell proteins (≤0.15 mcg) and/or host cell DNA (≤3 ng).

 Pfizer/BioNTech: The HEK-293 abortion-related cell line was used in research related to the development of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

 Moderna/NIAID: Aborted fetal cell lines were used in both the development and testing of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Further, plaintiffs religious beliefs are that they "oppose abortion under any circumstances, as they believe that abortion is the intrinsically evil killing of an innocent" and follow "spiritual leaders... who urge Christians to refuse said vaccines to avoid cooperation in abortion and to bear witness against it without compromise" and finally, their "religious conviction [is] against involuntary or coerced vaccination as an invasion of bodily autonomy contrary to their religious beliefs."


To be clear, the case is far from over with the next court deadline for the defendants to respond being set at September 22, 2021 at 5pm. As of this moment, no preliminary injunction or permanent injunction has been ordered. At this stage, the court has merely granted a temporary restraining order, which prohibits the denial of "religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination" until round two of the case.


However, if you are the type of person who has a sincerely held religious belief against vaccination, you should use this case as your blueprint to request an accommodation.