LANSING, Mich. — Two hundred and fifty people who worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and its affiliates are out of a job because they didn't comply with its vaccine mandate.
Now, some of those employees are gearing up to take the matter to federal court.
Attorney Noah Hurwitz is representing over 100 of the terminated employees and says this case is a clear violation of Title VII employment laws allowing for religious accommodation.
“The courts for a long time have been upholding an employee’s right to religious accommodation from the flu vaccine. So we expect that same precedent of law to apply here,” Hurwitz said.
One former employee we spoke with, who requested anonymity, said he asked Blue Cross Blue Shield of MIchigan for a religious accommodation and was denied. He says at a time when there is lots of talk about diversity and inclusion, this policy seems out of touch.
“It didn’t turn into diversity. It turned into something else entirely. It seems like its more like conformity and exclusion is what it turned into and its been sad to see,” he said.
Amy Castinon of the UAW Amalgamated Local 2256, says seven union members in the Lansing branch of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Blue Care Network were part of the terminations this week.
She said the union is taking grievances for anyone impacted by the mandate and plans to head to the bargaining table to get back pay and reinstatement for anyone who lost their job.
A statement from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan says in part, “Since announcing our policy on Oct. 29, over 1,900 unvaccinated employees have made the choice to receive their vaccines, or have been approved for a medical or religious accommodation. Out of more than 10,000 employees at Blue Cross and our subsidiaries, more than 96 percent are vaccinated. Regrettably, 250 employees chose not to comply with the company’s vaccine mandate and were therefore terminated Jan. 5.”
The statement goes on to say that the vaccine policy is meant to “safeguard the collective health and well-being of employees.”
Hurwitz says it will be at least six months before a suit can be filed because a complaint has to be filed and investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission first.
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