Fired for Not Taking the Flu Shot: Nurse McBride Sues for Discrimination

The U.S. has an uneasy relationship with vaccines. Polls show that support for vaccines has been dropping steadily for years as Americans lose trust in the healthcare system. Around 45% of adults say they doubt the safety of them, and the coronavirus has ushered in new concerns. Just 50% of adults say they plan to get vaccinated when the option becomes available.

If you work in the healthcare industry, you will likely have to get vaccinated whether you like it or not, but employers will also likely get plenty of pushback from their workers. Many nurses and providers may apply for exemptions, but it’s not clear if they will have the ability to opt out.

Nurse Mandy McBride recently sued her employer for what she sees as a violation of her civil rights. She was fired from her job after refusing to get a flu shot. Find out how her story unfolded.

Filing for an Exemption

McBride started working at CarePartners Rehabilitation Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina in 2016. When she took the job, the hospital told her that flu shots were mandatory for all employees, unless they qualified for an exemption. According to the lawsuit, McBride had suffered a “severe anaphylactic reaction” from a flu shot she took in the 1990s, so she applied for an exemption, hoping to avoid the same scenario.

As she and her attorney claim in the lawsuit, the company started using another vaccine with “cells obtained from aborted human fetuses.” As a Christian, McBride objected to taking the vaccine on religious and moral grounds.

As the suit states, “Plaintiff has a sincere religious belief, based on her understanding of the Christian religion, that abortion is morally wrong. Because of this sincerely held religious belief, plaintiff cannot utilize forms of vaccines derived or manufactured by (this) process.”

It’s true that some vaccines, including those used for rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A and shingles, do contain “cells derived from elective abortions,” as reported by Science Magazine.

Her employer eventually granted her the exemption but told her she would have to apply again later that year.

Fired for Not Getting Vaccinated

From September to October 2016, McBride took family and medical leave to look after her son. According to the suit, she was also suffering from a “high-risk” pregnancy at the time.

Around the same time, her employer told her that she needed to get the flu shot again by Nov. 1st. McBride claims she was out of the office when the company first notified her of the new vaccination timeline. She says she had trouble accessing her email at the time and didn’t see the notice.

She still filed the exemption, citing the health risks of her pregnancy. She alleges she was instructed to speak with the doctor, but they “refused to meet” with her. McBride was then suspended from her post on Nov. 1st. The hospital later fired her on Dec. 16th, 2016.

A Violation of Her Civil Rights?

According to court filings, McBride filed claims for discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2017. The organization completed its investigation of the facility on Aug. 8th, 2019. They found that “there was reasonable cause to believe” the hospital had discriminated against McBride. However, the EEOC was unable to resolve the matter and issued McBride a “Notice of Right to Sue” in March 2020.

She then filed her lawsuit in June 2020, nearly four years after the initial incident. The suit alleges that the facility discriminated against McBride on the basis of religion and sex in violation of the Civil Rights Act. It also alleges the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

McBride is seeking a permanent injunction, which would bar her former employer from future discriminatory practices. She’s also looking for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

As stated in the lawsuit, “The employer’s termination of plaintiff has caused the plaintiff significant financial damage and has caused the plaintiff to incur emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, loss of self-esteem and loss of civil rights.”

It’s unclear how McBride’s case will play out in court or whether CarePartners violated her civil rights. The company denied any wrongdoing in its response to the lawsuit.

Getting vaccinated is a natural part of working as a healthcare provider. However, some vaccines may go against your personal beliefs. If you are thinking of filing for an exemption from the vaccination process for any number of reasons, you may encounter a similar situation. Make sure you file the required paperwork on time to avoid negative backlash.

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