EEOC sues UnitedHealthcare over unvaccinated employee's firing

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing UnitedHealthcare over allegations the company discriminated against a fully remote employee by refusing to grant her a religious exemption from the company's COVID-19 vaccination requirement. 

The EEOC said that the woman, a clinical administration supervisor, had performed her job entirely from home since 2018 and had no duties that required her to meet face-to-face or enter the company's facilities, according to a Sept. 20 news release from the commission. When UnitedHealthcare implemented a vaccination policy in October 2021, she received notifications directing her to receive the vaccine even though the company's policy allegedly stated that it did not apply to full-time telecommuters. 

She told her supervisor and human capital partner of her religious objects to vaccination and filed two requests for religious accommodation seeking exemption from the requirement, according to the release. UnitedHealth allegedly denied her request without discussion and mandated that she get a vaccine within 30 days or be fired. When she did not get the vaccine within that timeframe she was allegedly fired. 

The EEOC alleged that UnitedHealthcare violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination because of an individual's religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious observance or practice unless doing so would cause undue hardship. 

A UnitedHealthcare spokesperson told Becker's in an emailed statement:

"We disagree with the EEOC's case based on the facts and law and we plan to vigorously defend ourselves. We continue to respect individual beliefs, while working to ensure the health, well-being and safety of our colleagues and those we are privileged to serve."

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