Complaint alleges CHOA wrongfully fired employee over flu vaccine

A lawyer for the EEOC said the agency does not comment on active litigation. Jackson could also not be reached for comment.

A member of the New Covenant Congregation of Israel, Jackson’s job primarily consisted of groundskeeping, was confined to parking lots, requiring minimal interaction with the public and did not involve close proximity to patients, visitors or staff, according to the complaint.

CHOA officials said in his role Jackson interacted with patients and families.

Jackson, who converted to Judiasm in 2016, requested religious exemptions from CHOA’s policy mandatory influenza vaccination policy in 2017 and 2018 and it was granted both years, the lawsuit says.

In October 2019, he again requested an exemption.

Jackson’s request was reviewed and denied by CHOA’s Flu Exemption Committee, eventually getting a call from the employee health manager to elaborate more on his “sincerely held” beliefs.

“On or about December 6, 2019, Defendant discharged Jackson because of his failure to obtain the flu vaccination.”

Following an increase in flu-related deaths among kids in 2019, CHOA said in the statement, it modified its vaccination exemption policy related to staff who are regularly exposed to patients to align with CDC recommendations and protect patients.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to the New Covenant Congregation of Israel for comment but has not received a response. The lawsuit does not say what tenet of their religion the vaccine violated.

Rabbi Joshua Heller, senior rabbi of the conservative Congregation B’nai Torah, said the New Covenant would not be considered a mainstream Jewish congregation.

Heller said there were no restrictions against getting the flu vaccine among his and other mainstream congregations and, in fact, it is “strongly encouraged” and “certainly not forbidden.”

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