Nationwide Children's employee claims religious beliefs over COVID shot led to firing
A former employee of Nationwide Children's Hospital is suing the hospital system, claiming officials there illegally fired her when she objected to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination because of her religious beliefs.
Tina Moore, of Pickerington, filed a lawsuit Sunday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Moore identifies as Christian and claims her religious beliefs and her need for an accommodation were the motivating factors behind her termination last April. Prior to being fired, Moore had been employed with Nationwide Children's for 24 years, most recently as a scheduler for surgeries.
A spokesperson for Nationwide Children's Hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to Moore's complaint, the hospital system announced in August 2021 that all employees had to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be approved for an exemption by March 15, 2022.
Taking a COVID-19 vaccine does not align with Moore's religious beliefs as a Christian, according to the complaint, and she filed a religious exemption request form.
On or about March 10, the complaint states Moore was told by a hospital human resources official that she had failed to provide sufficient information showing her religious belief prohibited her from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Moore was told she was being placed on unpaid leave and if not vaccinated before March 15, her position would be posted and filled, the complaint reads.
Moore said she sought clarification with human resources, but was met with silence.
Nationwide Children's "did not respond to Moore's offer of additional information, did not seek clarification about her beliefs, and did not permit her to provide any further explanation beyond what she was able to provide on the hospital system's 'Religious Exemption Request Form,'" the complaint reads.
When she reported to work the next day on March 11, Moore said in her lawsuit that she was told in an email by human resources to leave the property immediately because she was "work restricted." She turned in her badge and left. One week later, Moore said she received a letter that said her employment had been terminated, effective April 15, because she was not fully vaccinated and her religious exemption was not approved.
"Moore alleges the defendant engaged in intentional discrimination against her when it failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation because her sincerely held religious beliefs conflicted with a work requirement and instead terminated her," the lawsuit reads.
Moore said the hospital system took away her access to her work email and she couldn't obtain copies of her exemption request and correspondence with human resources personnel to provide as exhibits to the complaint.
Moore went on to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in October said it would not proceed further in its investigation and had made no determination whether a further investigation would establish whether Nationwide Children's had violated the law. (The commission's letter was included in Moore's lawsuit.)
The lawsuit claims that while Moore's religious exemption request was denied, others submitted by coworkers were approved. One coworker who held a similar position to hers originally had their exemption denied, but was approved once the hospital reexamined the application, Moore said in the lawsuit.
Moore, who is being represented by Eric Jones of Jones Law Group in Columbus, is seeking compensatory damages including lost wages, past and future lost income, physical pain, emotional distress and humiliation. She's also seeking a court order awarding her back pay, pre-judgement interest, fringe benefits and other appropriate relief.