Riverside Healthcare Discrimination Must End

Sep 24, 2021

Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to Riverside Healthcare on behalf of six employees and numerous others who have been unlawfully discriminated against regarding religious exemptions and accommodations from the COVID shot mandate. 

Riverside has invited its health care workers to request exemption from the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy by submitting Riverside’s “Religious/Strongly Held Beliefs Declination of COVID-19 Vaccination Form.” The form allows employees to indicate a religious reason and a pastor’s statement for declining the injection. 

However, the form does not advise that patient-facing employees, those who work directly with patients, are blatantly disqualified from receiving a religious exemption. In fact, Riverside will allow medical and pregnancy exemptions but is discriminating against those health care workers with sincerely held religious beliefs against abortion and the connection of all available COVID injections to aborted fetal cell lines.

The six health care workers that Liberty Counsel represents, as well as numerous others, have been denied religious exemption requests with a generic email claiming that accommodating patient-facing employees would cause Riverside an “undue hardship.” In addition, on the same date Riverside sent denials to these employees, hospital officials also notified all employees of the “important modification” to the exemption policy which clearly disqualified any religious exemption requests from patient-facing employees.

Many health care facilities across the nation have proved that accommodations with reasonable safety protocols can be successfully granted to patient-facing healthcare workers. The health care employers granting the accommodations include: top education and research hospitals such as University of Chicago, University of Colorado, University of Maryland, and Temple University; some of the largest healthcare providers in the nation, including Advocate Aurora Health, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Kaiser Permanente, and Trinity Health, having hundreds of thousands of patient-facing employees and accommodating the subset of those with sincere religious beliefs, and; mid-sized and smaller healthcare providers also readily accommodating patient-facing personnel with sincere religious beliefs. 

In addition, obtaining a religious exemption from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination at the VHA only requires an employee to check a box on a form indicating a deeply held religious belief against the vaccination, and exempted employees can continue their same job functions with the same duties and responsibilities. 

Riverside Healthcare’s discrimination toward those with sincerely held religious beliefs against receiving the injection is a violation of federal and state law. 

Illinois law dictates that employees at Riverside Healthcare have the fundamental right to determine what medical care to accept and refuse. In fact, Illinois has a Health Care Right of Conscience Act that provides strong protection to all residents against discrimination based on health care choices. It states: “It shall be unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or public official to discriminate against any person in any manner, including but not limited to, licensing, hiring, promotion, or any other privileges, because of such person's conscientious refusal to receive, obtain, accept or participate in any way in any particular form of health care services contrary to his or her conscience” (emphasis added).           

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Riverside Healthcare is violating federal and state law by arbitrarily denying all religious exemptions for patient-facing employees while accommodating other health care workers. This is blatant discrimination, and we will not allow the rights of these health care heroes to be violated.” 

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