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Bristol Myers is sued for refusing COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions

Stock MarketsDec 01, 2021 08:46PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman holds test tube in front of displayed Bristol Myers Squibb logo in this illustration taken, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bristol Myers Squibb Co was sued on Wednesday by four employees who said the drugmaker refused to grant them religious exemptions from its COVID-19 vaccination requirement, and threatened to fire them on Dec. 6 for remaining unvaccinated.

The plaintiffs in the proposed class action filed in Manhattan federal court accused Bristol Myers of violating a federal civil rights law known as Title VII by "systematically manufacturing" reasons to refuse religious accommodations.

The plaintiffs allege that Bristol Myers is concluding their politics is the real reason they won't be vaccinated, regardless of whether they have sincere religious beliefs that independently would justify exemptions.

They also said the company is ignoring sincere religious beliefs that are "inconvenient" to denial decisions, even as it accommodates employees with medical reasons not to be vaccinated.

Bristol Myers said its priority during the pandemic has been the health and safety of communities, employees and patients.

"Our policy that all eligible employees in (the) U.S. and Puerto Rico be vaccinated against COVID-19 is consistent with this safety priority," the New York-based company said in a statement.

Wednesday's lawsuit came as the Biden administration seeks to require vaccinations for millions of workers at large private U.S. employers, a mandate is also being challenged in court.

Many health officials consider widespread vaccinations the best way to help control the pandemic.

The Bristol Myers plaintiffs, all with six-figure salaries, are Carrie Kefalas, a physician overseeing clinical trial risk management for drug development; biotechnologist John Lott; data integrity manager Jeremy Beer, and biologist Kamila Dubisz.

They objected to the company requiring they fill out "inquisitorial" questionnaires about their reasons for religious exemptions.

The complaint said Bristol Myers rejected Kefalas' request because it thought her beliefs were insincere and she might not accept mask-wearing or regular COVID-19 testing. The company offered no reasons for the other rejections, the complaint said.

Bristol Myers referred in Kefalas' rejection letter to several statements it said she made publicly, including that its vaccine requirement was a "communist, unamerican practice (sic)."

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Bristol Myers' firing the plaintiffs or similarly situated employees.

Bristol Myers ended 2020 with about 17,000 U.S. employees.

The case is Kefalas et al v Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) Co, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-10204.

Bristol Myers is sued for refusing COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions
 

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Comments (4)
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Dec 01, 2021 9:18PM ET
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fight back
david alveal
david alveal Dec 01, 2021 8:45PM ET
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Lesko  right on bud. and as the media likes to paint the picture that unvaccinated individuals are risk of spreading this stupid flu bug, but it's really the vaccinated one's in my opinion. Chances of dyeing is less than 1% from this virus. Chances of complications for the vaccinated including death is much greater.
david alveal
david alveal Dec 01, 2021 6:51PM ET
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good for you kefalas.  you have more guts than a lot of these spineless sheep.
Jurgen Daub
Jurgen Daub Dec 01, 2021 6:43PM ET
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fire
 
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