Saturday, June 7, 2014

NJ Appelate Court Honors Non-Religious Vaccine Exemption Against Private Employer

Extends Religious Exemption into
General Philosophical Exemption

Appellate Decision Link:  Valent v. Board of Review, No. A-4980-11T2 (June 5, 2014)

This decision is important because it effectively extends the vaccine religious exemption beyond strictly religious conscientious objection to include "secular" objections to mandated vaccinations. This is similar to the process that occurred during the Viet Nam War Draft, where religious CO status was extended to any person, even the non-religious, who objected to serving involuntarily. Note this case is an Unemployment Insurance case regarding whether the employee was justified in quitting over the vaccine mandate. rf...
Employee Had First Amendment Right To Refuse Flu Shot, N.J. Court Rules
by Mary Pat GallagherNew Jersey Law Journal June 5, 2014
"Denying unemployment benefits to a nurse fired for refusing a flu vaccine for secular reasons violated her First Amendment right to freedom of expression, where hospital policy allowed employees to skip the shot on religious grounds, a N.J. appeals court held on Thursday in a precedential case.
The court reversed the state Department of Labor's Board of Review, which had found that the vaccination policy of June Valent's former employer, Hackettstown Community Hospital, was reasonable and that her refusal to comply with it amounted to "simple misconduct" connected to her job that justified disqualifying her from unemployment benefits. 
'The Board's decision upholding appellant's termination unconstitutionally discriminated against her freedom of expression by improperly endorsing the employer's religion-based exemption to the flu vaccination policy and rejecting the secular choice proffered by appellant,' the Appellate Division said in Valent v. Board of Review."
The Court further stated:
"The religion-based exemption irrefutably illustrates that the flu vaccination policy is not based exclusively on public health concerns because an employee claiming an exemption is only required to sign a form attesting to his or her faith-based reason for refusing to be vaccinated, accompanied with an appropriate note from a religious leader," Fuentes wrote for the panel. 
"These requirements are facially unrelated to public health issues, patient safety concerns, or scientifically valid reasons for the containment of the flu virus," he said, adding that the religion exemption "merely discriminates against an employee's right to refuse to be vaccinated based only on purely secular reasons."
Also reported here, and in a number of other sources:

My thanks to Gary Krasner for this information.

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