Rady Children's Hospital

After Dismissals, Unvaccinated Nurses Take Legal Action Against Rady Children's Hospital

Complaint accuses hospital of religious discrimination and wrongful discharge

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More than three dozen former employees at Rady Children’s Hospital have lost their jobs for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The group is now suing for religious discrimination and wrongful discharge. NBC 7’s Artie Ojeda reports.

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 37 former Rady Children’s Hospital employees who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine based on their religious beliefs.

Per the defendants' attorneys, the nurses were put on "permanent administrative leave without job protection," meaning they won't be able to get their jobs back even if they were to get vaccinated.

The complaint, which was filed in San Diego Superior Court on Nov. 24, is accusing the hospital of religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful discharge. The suit does not specify damages being sought.

“Whatever is needed to compensate these folks for this wrong. I will tell you it’s a very big number when you put it together for 37 people,” said Dan Watkins, attorney for Santa Ana, California, based Watkins & Letofsky law firm.

According to the complaint, each of the plaintiffs requested a religious exemption, and each of them was denied. The suit accuses the hospital of making a blanket denial that “fails to address any determination on the sincerity of the religious beliefs, and fails to demonstrate any undue hardship giving cause for the refusal to accommodate.”

The California Department of Public Health issued mandatory vaccination orders and policies beginning in July but allowed for accommodations that included twice weekly testing for COVID, and the wearing of a surgical mask.

“The denial of any employee’s request for a religious accommodation based upon the views of other individuals who do not share the employee’s belief is unlawful,” states the lawsuit.

Rady Children’s Hospital released this statement to NBC 7:

“Rady Children’s cares for a vulnerable patient population, many of whom have no option for vaccination. We believe it is our responsibility to take necessary steps to help best protect the safety and well-being of the patients we serve. While it is the policy of Rady Children’s not to comment on pending legal matters, we are confident in and stand by our decisions regarding unvaccinated staff.”

Among the plaintiff’s in the lawsuit is Shay Glevy, 53, a register nurse who worked for Rady Children’s for 28 years.

“For 18 months I’ve been in a hospital where I’ve taken care of COVID patients, and a certain date hits and all of a sudden the hospital is deeming me unsafe,” Glevy said. “It’s surreal that it’s come to this — that I’ve been discriminated against for one choice though I’ve been following all the safety protocols the same as the vaccinated have."

Tawny Buettner, 40, worked as a registered nurse with Rady Children’s for 12 years.

“To devote yourself to keeping the community safe in so many ways and then being cast aside because of deeply held beliefs is hard,” Buettner said.

On the advice of their attorney, neither Glevy nor Buettner would say why their religion precludes them from getting the COVID vaccine, nor were they allowed to say whether they have received other vaccinations, but both are holding strong to their decisions and convictions.

“I just really have this faith, that God told me this is — you need to just trust me and hold on and not do this now," Glevy said, "and believe that there’s something good going to come to this in the end. So, I felt I really just needed to listen to what God was telling me to do.”

"I think people all have their own convictions," Buettner said, "and, unfortunately, my conviction does not align with society’s conviction at this time. I don’t think I should be penalized for it, and I don’t believe that I should have my livelihood and my professional integrity taken from me.”