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Vegan's religious accommodation case can proceed

Posted On: Jan. 7, 2013 12:00 AM CST

Vegan's religious accommodation case can proceed

A federal district court in Cincinnati has refused to dismiss a case in which a hospital customer service representative who was fired for refusing to get a flu shot contended she was entitled to religious accommodation because of her veganism.

According to the ruling in Sakile S. Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ms. Chenzira, a vegan, was discharged in December 2010 for refusing to take a flu shot, which is derived from eggs.

“Plaintiff contends such discharge violated her religious and philosophical convictions because she is a vegan,” said the Dec. 27 ruling.

However, the hospital argued that veganism “is no more than a dietary preference or religious philosophy,” said the ruling.

U.S. District Court Judge S. Arthur Spiegel said the case cannot be dismissed at this point.

“The court finds that in the context of a motion to dismiss, it merely needs to determine whether plaintiff has alleged a plausible claim,” said the ruling. “The court finds it plausible that Plaintiff could subscribe to veganism with a sincerity equating that of traditional religious views.”

The court added, however, that its ruling “in no way addresses what it anticipates as defendant’s justification for its termination of plaintiff, the safety of patients at Children’s Hospital.

“At this juncture, there simply is no evidence before the court regarding what, if any, contact plaintiff might have with patients, and/or what sort of risk her refusal to receive a vaccination could pose in the context of her employment. The court simply rules on the sufficiency of the complaint,” said the judge, in permitting the case to proceed.