Hacienda La Puente school district sued for allegedly denying religious vaccine exemptions – NBC Los Angeles
More than 20 former employees of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District are suing the district, all of whom objected to the district’s employees’ coronavirus vaccination mandate and allege they were wrongly denied exemptions on religious grounds.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit in Pomona Superior Court alleges religious discrimination, harassment and retaliation. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the amended lawsuit filed Thursday.
“The sincerity of an employee’s stated religious belief is generally not disputed and is generally presumed or readily established,” the lawsuit states. “Employers are not and should not be responsible for deciding whether a person has religious beliefs for the right reasons…”
Instead of following the law to approve the plaintiffs’ offers for religious exemptions and reasonable accommodations, the HLPUSD rejected their requests and terminated them, the suit says.
A representative for HLPUSD could not immediately be reached for comment.
On September 23, the school board approved a resolution requiring, in part, that all employees in the district report their COVID-19 vaccination status to human resources and that starting October 16, employees would only be allowed on campus. only if they were fully vaccinated and provided proof of being so.
The resolution allowed exemptions for medical and religious reasons on the condition that those exempted were tested weekly.
The school board listed 18 “misleading and/or exaggerated factors to support the resolution requiring its employees to be vaccinated to work safely in the district,” signaling the board’s “contempt for employees who would seek religious exemptions to the mandate.” , the suit states.
Two such examples included the board’s finding that COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States have been shown to be safe and highly effective in curbing the spread of the coronavirus as well as another finding that the coronavirus continues to pose a serious risk. for health, especially for individuals who are not fully vaccinated — none of which is backed by scientific data, the suit says.
The plaintiffs submitted requests for religious accommodation, claiming that accepting or receiving any of the three currently available COVID-19 vaccines would violate their sincere religious beliefs, in part because all vaccines are developed and produced from of aborted fetal cell lines. , states the suit.
“Plaintiffs’ sincere religious beliefs compel them to refrain from accepting or injecting any of these products into their bodies, regardless of the perceived benefits or justifications,” according to the complaint.
Each plaintiff received a denial letter from HLPUSD stating in part, “The purpose of this correspondence is to notify you that the District has reviewed your application and supporting documentation and hereby denies your request for exemption,” the suit states. .
The HLPUSD further stated in its denial letters that accommodations could not be provided to complainants due to the undue hardship presented by the applications, but the district “falls utterly short of providing factual evidence to support the claim.” an allegation of undue hardship,” the suit states. .
“Further evidence of HLPUSD’s discrimination with these denials is present in the fact that HLPUSD turns a blind eye to the current state of science, which clearly indicates that vaccinated individuals are spreading COVID-19 just like unvaccinated individuals. “, says the lawsuit.
The District’s “malicious and reckless actions are causing intense and undue stress on its former employees, who have been forced to choose between keeping their jobs, which they loved, and honoring their most deeply held religious beliefs about life, purpose and death,” the lawsuit said. States.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Thuy Monge, Jamie Askus, Alice Acevedo, Ida Aguayo, Jose Araiza, Marisol Arevalo, Diana Ayala, Maechelle Brown, Noemi Covarrubias, Desteny Flores, Elizabeth Hernandez, Heidi Holguin, Melissa Lomenzo, Vanessa Lozano, Dora Luna , Melissa Lucht, Romelia Mancillas, Benny Morales, Miranda Noriega, Melissa Ramon, Ashley Smith, Matthew Solorzano, Kerry Stavert-Wooten, Brittney Strand, Marysol Thomas and Sean Van Gundy.
The lawsuit does not indicate the employments held by the plaintiffs in the district.