Euclid woman suing local hospital over ‘religious discrimination’ after she refused to get flu shot

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Ohio -- A Euclid woman is suing a local hospital, saying they rescinded a job offer after she refused to get a flu shot.

India Pouge is a member of the Zion Missionary Baptist Church and she says flu vaccinations are against her religious beliefs.

The lawsuit says Pouge was hired by Metro Health System in January 2019 to work in the hospital's contact center in Brooklyn Heights. She was scheduled to start February 4.

Upon her hiring, she was told she would need to get a flu shot. Pouge said flu vaccinations are against her religious beliefs, so she filled out a vaccine exemption request form and wrote a letter detailing why she didn't want one. A few days later, she received a call from the hospital, telling her that her offer of employment had been rescinded and she had been terminated.

The lawsuit says the hospital discriminated against her because of her religion and failure to accommodate her request.

The hospital said they could not comment on pending litigation but did provide information about their policy pertaining to such matters.

It reads in part:

"In order to protect patients and staff from preventable flu infections, the Metro Health System requires employees to get flu vaccinations. this includes applicants.

There are exemptions for receiving the flu vaccine and they may be requested based on certain medical conditions or deeply held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Those seeking exemption for religious, ethical or moral beliefs are required to provide supporting documentation, which may include a personal statement explaining the belief and how it does not allow the influenza vaccine, a written letter by the individual’s religious leader detailing the religion’s tenants that are applicable, or statements by other witnesses or other documentation confirming the validity or history of the individual’s belief."

According to the lawsuit, Pouge said she suffered emotional distress and loss of salary, benefits and other privileges that come along with employment. She is seeking monetary damages including back pay and benefits not less than $75,000.

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