Letter for NY Healthcare Workers to Send if Rejected at Interview for Being Unvaccinated

1-18-23

We are hearing unvaccinated healthcare workers are interviewing for jobs and being immediately rejected. If this happens to you, the below is a template letter from attorney Sujata Gibson you can work with to send to the facility that terminated your interview based on your vaccine status. At the end of this letter there is also a pdf copy of the court decision that you can send to the institution that terminated your interview as well. – mk

***

Your name

Your contact info

Date

[Name of contact person/department, hospital name and address]

Dear [name]:

On [date], I applied for the position of [name position] at [name of hospital or facility]. I am well-qualified for this position. I was honored and pleased to get a call back on [date]. Unfortunately, when the interviewer learned that I am not vaccinated against COVID-19, they immediately terminated the interview on that basis and ceased communication, indicating that no accommodations would be considered. My understanding is that this has happened to a number of other applicants who recently called as well.

COVID-19 vaccination violates my sincerely held religious beliefs. In accordance with the New York State Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful to discriminate against me based on this religious practice without attempting to provide reasonable religious accommodation.

As you may or may not know, the New York State Department of Health Regulation mandating COVID-19 vaccination without the possibility of religious accommodation [10 NYCRR § 2.61] was recently struck down as null, void, and unenforceable in its entirety. The decision and order was entered on January 13, 2023 by the Hon. Judge Gerard Neri in the Onondaga Supreme Court, and applies statewide. It is entitled “Medical Professionals for Informed Consent v. Mary T. Bassett, Index No. 008575/2022. The docket number is 86. [Optional – A copy of the decision is attached to this letter].

Therefore, it is legally required that employers and potential employers honor reasonable religious accommodation now that New York’s unlawful regulation has been declared null and void. As Judge Neri recognized in his decision, it is not reasonable to exclude people from employment on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status since the COVID-19 vaccines cannot stop transmission to any meaningful degree. Even the CDC has revised its guidance to recommend that employers treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees the same for purposes of mitigation of the spread of COVID. 

Under New York law, it is not permissible to deny reasonable accommodation unless it can be shown that it would be a significant hardship or expense, or that a person would pose a direct threat to others based on their accommodation. Ending an interview because an applicant requires reasonable religious accommodation constitutes religious discrimination under the law.

I am well qualified for this position, and I hope that there was just a misunderstanding about the current state of the law regarding religious accommodations since the decision was issued so recently. It is my hope that this can be resolved and that a new call-back interview can be set up at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,

[Name]

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