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Firing after COVID-19 vaccination refusal isn't grounds for discrimination, judge says

An administrative law judge filed a recommended order. The Florida Commission on Human Relations has the final say.  

Image by Spencer Davis from Pixabay

A nurse doesn’t have a wrongful termination case against her ex-employer after she was fired because she refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine, an administrative law judge decided Monday. Judge G. W. Chisenhall filed a recommended order against Gail Ezell, an advanced practice registered nurse who worked for the Nemours Foundation, a pediatric healthcare provider in Orlando. The Florida Commission on Human Relations has the final say.  

Ezell, a 42-year nursing veteran who worked for Nemours since 2012, “is a devout Roman Catholic who believes that life begins at conception and strongly opposes abortion,” the order said. She refused to get vaccinated against COVID, despite a mandatory vaccination policy, because of her objection to “the use of aborted fetal cell lines … in all of the available vaccines.” Ezell was let go in October 2021. 

Chisenhall found that although Ezell held a “sincere religious belief,” “granting exemption requests, based solely on the attenuated connection between the … vaccines and fetal cell lines, would have caused more than (minimal) harm to Nemours’ business operations” by having unvaccinated workers. And there was no evidence “that Nemours singled out Catholics for less favorable treatment,” Chisenhall wrote, rejecting a religious discrimination claim. 

Coincidentally, the ruling came a few days after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a pandemic-related immigration case that emergency measures, including vaccine mandates, “taken during the COVID-19 crisis (represented) perhaps ‘the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country,’ ” the Associated Press reported

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