Mission Health has reached a settlement with three former employees who claimed they were fired because they refused to get flu shots on religious grounds. Christine Bolella and Titus Robinson were terminated in 2013, while Melody Mitchell was fired in 2014. All three filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Mission, alleging the hospital system failed to accommodate their religious beliefs. Mission Health has a policy making yearly flu shots mandatory for employees. All three sought a religious exemption, but claimed they were each denied and eventually terminated by Mission. Court documents show under the settlement reached Friday, Mission will pay $89-thousand in damages, which will be split among the three employees. Mission must also provide 'reasonable accommodation to the known bona fide religious beliefs' of employees, and remove a deadline it had created for employees to file religious exemptions to yearly flu shots.
In a statement released Friday, Mission Health Senior Vice President for Government and Community Relations Rowena Buffett Timms said, "Providing safe, quality health care is our first priority, and our flu vaccination policy is in place to protect our patients and their families and to keep our caregivers well so that they can continuously provide exceptional care. As healthcare providers, we are keenly aware that vaccines not only protect the person who gets the vaccine, vaccines also protect those around them, especially those with weakened immune systems or babies too young for vaccination. Therefore, while our preference would have been that the EEOC not challenge what we consider a patient safety and public health responsibility, we are pleased that this matter has been resolved in a manner that respects patient safety as well as the rights of employees."
Bolella worked as a pre-school teacher at Mission's Child Development Center. Mitchell was a psychiatric intake clinician. Robinson was a psychiatric technician.