Former employees with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee say their religious rights were violated by the payer after they were terminated for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a class action lawsuit filed Sept. 7 in a Tennessee federal court.
In August 2021, BCBS required up to 900 employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition of employment, with exceptions for medical/disability or religious reasons decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the lawsuit. The employees subject to the mandate were "customer facing" positions and 41 employees were eventually terminated for noncompliance, according to WSMV.
The plaintiffs said they submitted requests for religious accommodations, which were ultimately denied. BCBS terminated the employees by the end of 2021, which the plaintiffs allege was a violation of their religious rights under the Civil Rights Act.
"As a direct and proximate result of [BCBS'] unlawful and willfully discriminatory behavior, plaintiffs and the similarly-situated class members have and will continue to suffer humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress, lost wages and benefits, loss of earning capacity, loss of future income, and other benefits and privileges of employment," the lawsuit said.
The former employees are requesting a jury, a certified class action, and an award for all alleged damages.
"We do not comment on pending or ongoing litigation, but we are confident that the court will make the right decision in resolving this dispute," a BCBS Tennessee spokesperson told Becker's. "The vaccine requirement was the best decision for the health and safety of our employees, our members – some of whom are the most vulnerable in the state – and our communities. Because we serve federally funded programs, our decision was also consistent with the latest guidance requiring our employees to be vaccinated. We appreciate our former employees' service to our members and communities throughout their time with BlueCross."