Court Reverses Denial of Unemployment Compensation to Employee Fired for Religious Objection to Vaccination
From Washa v. Actalent Scientific, LLC, decided two weeks ago by Minnesota Court of Appeals Chief Judge Susan Segal and Judges Peter Reyes and Randall Slieter, but just posted on Westlaw:
Actalent Scientific employed Washa and placed him as a medical lab technician with North Memorial Clinics. On January 3, 2022, North Memorial terminated Washa’s assignment because he refused to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination as required by North Memorial’s policies. Washa had requested an exemption from the vaccine requirement, but it was denied….
Washa was denied unemployment benefits, administratively appealed, and participated in a hearing before the ULJ [unemployment law judge]. When the ULJ asked Washa about his reasons for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, Washa testified:
[I]t’s a matter of not wanting to be defiled. It’s like the God that actually comes, like, has a spot in me, and I need to keep the spot good, otherwise he’s not as able to enter as well, where ultimately I could go to hell over it. But it’s a matter of purity of a person’s body. Body is a temple type belief.
Washa testified that he had not received any vaccines for the past 15 years. Washa testified that his beliefs derive from the Bible and that he attends a Bible study with a group of friends about once every two weeks to “go over the Bible in different ways.” …
The ULJ issued a final decision determining that Washa had committed employment misconduct by failing to comply with the vaccination mandate, that his refusal of the vaccine was not based on sincerely held religious beliefs, and that he was therefore ineligible for benefits. The ULJ found: “Although Washa is a religious person, his testimony shows that it is more likely than not that his concerns about taking the Covid-19 vaccine are based on secular concerns about his perceived health risks of
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