Employee Lacked Any Medical Condition That Exempted Her From Employer-Mandated Vaccination Policy

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room, Nonprofit News, Private Education Matters, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Nonprofit, Private Education, Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Jun 06, 2023

Deanna Hodges began working for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2000 as an administrator with no patient care responsibilities. In 2017, Cedars announced a new policy requiring all employees, regardless of their role, to be vaccinated by the beginning of flu season. This was the latest expansion to Cedars’ longstanding efforts to limit employee transmission of flu, which had become more urgent following multiple patient deaths relating to flu.

As required by law, Cedar’s policy made exemptions for “valid medical or religious” reasons. Cedars established a very thorough exemption evaluation process through which a panel would grant an exemption only for a “recognized medical contraindication”. Hodges did not want to get the flu vaccine, despite not having any contraindications to the flu vaccine. Hodges and her doctor merely stated on the exemption form that Hodges has a “History of multiple allergies post-treatment for colorectal cancer with chemoradiation. Extreme unwell state results from injections and immunizations. No direct patient contact.”   Hodges’ doctor stated in his deposition that he was not communicating that Hodges had a recognized contraindication to the flu vaccine.

Hodges submitted her form.  She was informed that her form was illegible and that she would be suspended and terminated if she did not agree to get the flu vaccine. Hodges attempted to convince a variety of personnel that her exemption request was valid and should be granted. The panel denied her exemption request.  Hodges’ doctor then attempted to persuade her to receive the vaccine. Hodges steadfastly refused and was terminated effective November 9, 2017.

Hodges filed a lawsuit against Cedars alleging: 1) disability discrimination; 2) failure to engage in the interactive process; 3) failure to accommodate a disability; 4) retaliation; 5) failure to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; and 6) wrongful termination.  Cedars received summary judgment and Hodges appealed to the California Court of Appeal.

After a thorough review of the evidence, including depositions, declarations, and exhibits, the Court of Appeal decided that Hodges did not have a medically valid contraindication that constituted a disability.  Even if she did, the Court of Appeal stated, Cedars terminated Hodges for a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason; noncompliance with a bona fide employer policy aimed at protecting and saving lives.

Hodges v. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 2023 WL 3558767 (Cal. Ct. Appeal).

View More News

Client Update for Public Agencies
Staffing Agency Did Not Fire Temporary Employee, It Simply Ended Her Assignment
Client Update for Public Agencies, Nonprofit News, Private Education Matters
Severance Agreement Was Valid Because It Did Not Actually Release Employer From Unknown, Future Claims