The University of Virginia wrongly fired an worker who refused to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, in keeping with a brand new ruling.
The college “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner” when it fired Kaycee McCoy, a cytotechnologist, in 2021, Virginia District Court Judge Claude Worrell Jr. mentioned in a July 27 ruling.
Ms. McCoy had requested for a non secular exemption to the college’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with assist from her pastor.
But her employer denied the request and terminated Ms. McCoy in November 2021.
Ms. McCoy shortly took her case to the courts, saying that the refusal to grant an exemption violated Virginia’s Constitution, which states partially that each one residents are “entitled to the free exercise of religion” and that no citizen “shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.”
The college defended its choice, arguing that the plaintiff’s “personal opinions” and “personal preferences” didn’t make her entitled to a non secular exemption. They additionally mentioned they didn’t must grant her an exemption even when her objection was primarily based on honest beliefs.
Judge Worrell disagreed, discovering in favor of the plaintiff.
Virginia courts uphold governmental actions until the actions are “arbitrary and capricious” or these taken “without a determining principle,” in keeping with earlier courtroom selections.
The college wrongly utilized a check aimed toward figuring out the sincerity of perception, the decide mentioned, which “is violative of the separation of church and state doctrine enshrined in both the Virginia and federal constitutions.”
He reversed the termination, ordered the college to not fireplace Ms. McCoy once more, supplied she met the exemption necessities, and awarded the plaintiff damages equal to the wage she would have obtained since being fired, plus curiosity.
The college didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Lawyers for Ms. McCoy mentioned the courtroom “handed a victory” to the plaintiff.
Requests Exemption After Mandate Announced
Ms. McCoy began working for the University of Virginia in 2011. She is a cytotechnologist or a laboratory employee who analyzes cells.
The college imposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Aug. 25, 2021, however mentioned it could contemplate medical and spiritual exemption requests. The college cited steering by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat who mentioned that universities may require COVID-19 vaccination however that they need to “be prepared to provide reasonable accommodation for medical conditions and/or religious objections.”
Ms. McCoy filed her exemption request on Sept. 12, 2021, earlier than the deadline for such requests.
Ms. McCoy’s objection was partly primarily based on how fetal cells have been utilized in testing or creating all of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“The presence of and use of immortalized human cell lines taken against the will of the person aborted, having been used in the development of vaccinations, violates my sincere and firm beliefs that participation in the vaccination mandate is an indirect engagement and participation in abortion,” Ms. McCoy advised the college.
She additionally despatched a letter from her pastor confirming the sincerity of Ms. McCoy’s beliefs.
“I fully support Kaycee’s right to this objection based on the exercise of her own personal and faithful convictions,” the pastor wrote.
Several weeks later, the college denied the request, with no rationale supplied.
Ms. McCoy requested for a motive for the denial, however the college mentioned all selections made by a physique described because the “Health System Vaccine Religious Exemption Committee” have been ultimate, and no appeals have been allowed. Additional data supporting the request may very well be supplied, in keeping with the message, from human sources.
The e-mail mentioned workers not in compliance with the mandate as of Nov. 1, 2021, could be topic to punitive motion, together with attainable termination.
Ms. McCoy was on trip through the first week of November 2021. When she went to work on the primary day after getting back from trip, she met with a supervisor who advised her she was suspended and could be fired in 5 days.
Later that day, an e-mail confirming that the college wouldn’t change its denial choice arrived in Ms. McCoy’s inbox.
Mandate Kept in Place
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, issued an government order upon taking workplace in 2022 that mentioned any “requirement of state employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and disclose their vaccination status or engage in mandatory testing is harmful to their individual freedoms and privacy.”
Mr. Youngkin ordered a halt to such mandates at state establishments, together with state universities.
The University of Virginia suspended its mandate for some workers however not employees in its well being system.
The college cited a federal rule that compelled well being care establishments to require COVID-19 vaccination in the event that they obtain Medicare or Medicaid funding.
President Joe Biden’s administration ended that rule, and plenty of different mandates, in May. Mr. Biden mentioned the decline in COVID-19 circumstances, hospitalizations, and deaths led to the change.