Tuesday, September 27

Federal judge rules against Catholic woman who claims Aspirus fired her because of her religious beliefs

A federal judge in Wisconsin dismissed a woman’s claims that she was discriminated against by her employer after she lost her job for refusal of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The employer also gave her a chance to get tested bi-weekly in lieu of getting a vaccine in order to come back to work, but she refused, quoting her religion as an exemption to both the vaccine and testing.

COVID-19 Testing Center

 

In court documents filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, the woman, Jo Anne Egelkrout was working at the time for Aspirus, Inc., a non-profit healthcare organization with a network of hospitals and clinics. Egelkrout was an “Insurance Enrollment Coordinator” for the organization. 

The court documents further stated that in April of 2020, all of the employees, including Egelkrout were required to work remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the vaccine rolled out, Aspirus sent an e-mail to all employees stating that the vaccine was voluntary, but that they would like to know who was planning on getting it and who was not. In August 2021, the recommendations of getting a COVID-19 vaccine or bi-weekly testing became a requirement as a condition for continued employment as a measure to protect both employees and patients.

Egelkrout, according to court documents wrote to her employer stating that it was against her religious beliefs as she was a practicing Catholic and it conflicted with the Catholic Church’s views on abortions due to rumors of vaccines being developed using aborted fetuses. 

As for the bi-weekly testing, she claimed it was an unreasonable accommodation of her beliefs about the vaccine and refused to be tested since she was working remotely and was not in close contact with other employees or patients.

Egelkrout was eventually placed on unpaid administrative leave before being terminated and she ended up accepting a new position at another company. Aspirus gave her one last chance to submit a test and agreed to a at home saliva test. She submitted this test and gave her two weeks’ notice upon logging in since she already found another job. She then filed a discrimination charge against Aspirus through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The judge in the case dismissed her claims stating that “An employee is not entitled to the accommodation of her choice, just a reasonable one.” The bi-weekly testing would have been reasonable and there was no clear reason given to why testing would be un-reasonable. The judge also pointed out that the Egelkrout did not voice an objection to the testing in her original EEOC charge, except that she did not want to comply with it.

The judge dismissed all of her claims and closed the case.

The case is No. 3:22-cv-00118-bbc, Egelkrout v. Aspirus and is filed in the United States District Court for theWestern District of Wisconsin

 

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