(WHNT) — Five employees at United Launch Alliance (ULA) say they were faced with what they call an impossible choice: take the COVID-19 vaccine at the expense of their religious beliefs or health concerns, or lose their livelihoods.
In a class action suit filed against ULA, the employees point to Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on a number of factors, including religion.
They also point to Alabama’s newly minted law prohibiting employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines if an employee objects for religious or medical reasons. The law went into effect on November 5.
According to the filing, Hunter Creger, one of the plaintiffs, was suspended from ULA on October 27.
Creger had protested the mandate outside the plant just days before.
“For nothing that has to do with my merit, they’re firing me,” Creger told News 19. “I’m a Catholic and I don’t believe in taking this vaccine.”
Like Creger – the other four plaintiffs say their religion bars them from taking a vaccine that was manufactured or tested on “cell lines derived from stem cells of aborted fetuses, as all of the current available COVID-19 vaccines are.”
While some vaccines are, doctors at UAB Hospital in Birmingham say the COVID-19 vaccines are not manufactured using aborted fetal cells.
In addition to the religious grievances, the lawsuit alleges two of the plaintiffs also submitted medical exemptions.
Zachary Breland claims to have submitted a letter signed by his doctor stating he did not need to take the vaccine due to an underlying health condition. The suit says the company also denied that request.
Sherrie Maine, who also claims her medical exemption on the basis of COVID-19 antibodies present, was denied too.
The group is asking for a number of things including back pay, reinstatement, damages, and attorneys’ fees to be paid.
On November 15th, ULA issued the following statement to News 19:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the health and safety of the ULA team and everyone in our buildings have been at the forefront of our COVID-19 response. Following the implementation of our vaccine policy to align with the multiple contract modifications we have received from our customer that require all ULA employees to become vaccinated, we have only seen a 1 percent impact to our workforce of those employees that did not comply with the policy and become vaccinated. That number could vary slightly as we are still working through the appeal process. We have no critical personnel gaps, slowdowns or disruptions to our work or processing for our customers’ launches. We understand these are tremendously challenging times, and we are committed to ensure a safe and healthy work environment, while continuing to support the nation’s most critical missions.United Launch Alliance Spokesperson
ULA said they would not comment on specific pending litigation.