(NaturalNews) Eight nurses who were fired by their hospital-employer for refusing flu vaccines got national attention earlier this year when ABC News reported on the event. This brought much needed national attention to a trend rapidly sweeping the nation, that of hospitals requiring their employees to get flu shots or lose their jobs. A large percentage of healthcare workers object to the new policy, but most are getting the shot because they can't afford to lose their jobs, are not aware of laws that could help them avoid the shot, or are afraid they'll be fired just for asking for an exemption. I applaud ABC News for bringing national attention to this matter.
However, the article misquoted me (a vaccine rights attorney) about the law, and that could prove disastrous for employees in the future who rely on the misinformation. Specifically, the article quoted me as saying: "Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief . . . the belief [that] flu shots are bad should suffice." This is absolutely not true, and not what I said. First Amendment protections do NOT extend to "any strongly held belief," they extend only to beliefs that are "religious in nature" and "sincerely held" as the law defines those phrases. As for the legal meaning of those phrases, that is not a short-answer question. It takes a consultation to explore this with individual clients, as rights can vary according to each person's specific situation and circumstances, and applicable laws may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This is also a complicated arena because of many legal "pitfalls" that are not obvious to non-attorneys. Unfortunately, the way exemption law works is just not consistent with most people's common sense approach to the matter.
The ABC News article did go on to correctly quote me as having said, "If your personal beliefs are religious in nature, then they are a protected belief [sic]," but that is only part of the equation; the beliefs must also be "sincerely held" - again, as the law defines those phrases. So, healthcare workers should NOT rely on the ABC article when considering their rights.
No offense is intended to ABC News or the article's author; the law in this area can be confusing. To the contrary, we appreciate ABC News for letting their readers know that some professionals are so strongly opposed to flu vaccines that they are willing to lose their jobs rather than be forced to get one. Indeed, the small number who lose their jobs represent a vastly larger number who object to mandatory flu vaccines but who simply can't afford to sacrifice their jobs to prove it.
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