Mandatory flu shots at workplaces, specifically in the healthcare vertical, are becoming an increasingly contentious battle between those who want draconian flu shot mandates and those who want the freedom of choice. A new U.S. Justice Department lawsuit may be a step in deciding the ultimate fate of such measures.
On Tuesday, DOJ officials sued Ozaukee County claiming that the county violated a nurse’s religious rights by forcing her to receive the flu shot.
The indictment filed by U.S. District Court says that Barnell Williams originally contested the mandatory flu shot policy based on religious beliefs however after being threatened with loss of job, Williams submitted to the shot. Williams is an employee of Lasata Care Center, a senior care living facility, which is funded by the public and is a non-religious entity.
Lasata’s policy for mandatory flu shots does come with an exemption that allows exemption when the employee obtains, “written statement from their clergy leader supporting the exemption with a clear reason and explanation.”
Williams does not belong to any organized religion which made the policy’s exemption protocol impossible for her. She instead claimed that vaccines violate the “Holy Temple” that is her body.
“Williams suffered severe emotional distress from receiving the flu shot in violation of her religious beliefs, including withdrawing from work and her personal life, suffering from sleep problems, anxiety, and fear of ‘going to Hell’ because she had disobeyed the Bible by receiving the shot,” the suit claims.
DOJ officials are specifically citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that Williams was not allowed to make any reasonable effort to validate her religious claims.
Ozaukee County released the following response to the DOJ’s lawsuit. “The county will file a motion to dismiss the Justice Department lawsuit and believe that current case law will support our motion.”