Coaches Sue Washington Nationals After Defying Vaccination Mandate
WASHINGTON — Two coaches from the Washington Nationals baseball team are adding to the lawsuits spun off from mandates by the federal government and private employers requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The federal mandate announced by President Joe Biden last fall takes effect next week for employers with at least 100 employees. It will affect about 80 million Americans.
Lawsuits from conservative state governments, business and religious groups that oppose the mandate already made it to the Supreme Court, where a hearing is scheduled for Friday.
In the case of the Nationals, two minor league pitching coaches were fired after refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 on religious grounds.
The team set a Sept. 10 deadline for all employees to get at least one dose of the vaccine but coaches Lawrence Pardo and Bradly Holman refused. They were fired in a written notification on Sept. 15.
They accuse the team of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
Pardo and Holman requested an exemption from the Nationals’ vaccination mandate. They wanted what they considered a reasonable accommodation that would include masking and regular testing.
The team denied their request in a notification that said “in light of the fact that a fully approved vaccine is now available, and given the nature of your position, duties, and essential functions, your continued performance of your duties without being vaccinated will pose an unacceptable risk to the health of company employees (including you), customers, visitors, and others with whom you are required to interact in connection with your job duties.”
The team’s notification also said, “[T]he company recognizes and respects your religious beliefs and would accommodate those beliefs if it could.”
The coaches’ complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia says they object to the use of “aborted fetal cell tissue” in the development of the vaccines.
“As devoted as Plaintiffs are to baseball, their sincerely held religious beliefs guide them in their lives on a daily basis and are not negotiable,” the lawsuit says.
They argue that the team has not demonstrated it would suffer an “undue hardship” by offering the coaches an alternative to the vaccinations.
They claim an exemption from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency rule requiring vaccinations. The rule allows exceptions, such as for employees who work alone or outdoors.
Pardo and Holman said they see the baseball players almost daily but nearly all the work is done outdoors.
Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines in tests of their vaccines. Johnson & Johnson used a fetal cell line in manufacturing and production of its vaccine.
No vaccines distributed in the United States contain cells from abortions in their ingredients.
Even if aborted fetal cells had been used, the Vatican has given conditional approval of the vaccines.
A December 2020 Vatican encyclical says that if no other practical options are available, “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”
Pardo and Holman are not the first employees to object to Nationals’ workplace policies on religious grounds.
Former vice president Bob Boone resigned from the organization over the vaccine mandate.
In 2015, three ushers sued the Nationals while claiming they were fired after refusing to work on the Seventh-Day Adventist Sabbath. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The case is Pardo et al. v. Washington Nationals Baseball Club LLC, case number 1:21-cv-03078, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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