Typist Says She Was Suspended, Then Fired for COVID Vaccine Stand

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former typist for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is suing her ex-employer and two top executives, alleging she was the victim of religious discrimination in her refusal to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, resulting initially in her suspension and later her termination.

Crystal Brock's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also names as defendants Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, and Johanna Prieto, the director of the health department's human resources division. Brock also alleges retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination and/or retaliation. She seeks unspecified damages.

A county representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit brought Friday.

"The county's vaccination policy, as applied to (Brock), a work-from- home employee with an on-the-record request for religious accommodation, is unconstitutional," the suit states.

The county required its employees to complete the primary vaccination series by October 2021, or submit a religious or medical exemption request and be tested weekly.

Brock turned in her request for a religious exemption and accommodation in October 2021, based on her belief that the tenets for her Baptist faith disapproved of vaccinations, the suit states. Brock's request was received and she was permitted to work provided she complied with the testing policy, and her exemption was recognized until February 2022, according to the suit.

In January 2022, Brock's infant child became sick with the coronavirus, so the plaintiff stayed home and alerted her supervisors that she had been exposed to COVID-19, the suit states. Brock did not take her weekly coronavirus test because she was at home, but she was still served a week later with a notice of a five-day suspension for missing the test, the suit states.

"Plaintiff complained, given she had told the county she was out sick, exposed, caring for her infant and quarantining," the suit states.

Management told Brock that she had not properly reported her situation and took her request to have the suspension revoked under consideration, but later refused to revoke the suspension, the suit states.

Human resources later revoked Brock's religious exemption entirely and ordered her to either get vaccinated or face termination, the suit states. She subsequently filed a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, alleging in part that her exemption was revoked in retaliation for her complaints about the January 2022 suspension, the suit states. But the county fired Brock in August 2022 without considering the merits of the EEOC filing, the suit states.

"The sole reason cited for plaintiff's termination was and remains her failure to get her primary vaccine series after the denial of her religious accommodation request," the suit states. "The county's termination papers did not include any reason or rationale provided for the county's determination that plaintiff does not hold a sincerely held religious belief exempting her from the vaccination policy."

Brock raised the issue of an alleged complete lack of supporting documentation for this decision at a due process hearing, but was fired anyway with no additional material being supplied, the suit alleges.

Brock believes that no other Department of Public Health employee has had a religious exemption denied after being accepted initially for several months, the suit states.

Since Brock's firing, the county no longer requires religiously exempt employees to test once a week, according to the suit.

The COVID vaccine does not prevent people from contracting or spreading the virus, but health officials say it reduces the likelihood of severe symptoms or death for those who are infected.

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