A group of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) employees who say they were terminated due to a Title VII violation over religious freedom due to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the company.
After an investigation process by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the former employees have received their right to sue letters, according to a press release.
Between October and November 2021, BCBST let go 41 of its staff after the company implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for 900 customer-facing roles, according to allegations made in the press release. Many of these 900 employees were full time telecommuters and had been working from home during the pandemic, a spokesperson for the group has alleged.
In October, 19 employees were fired followed by an additional 22 a month later, just weeks before a Tennessee law was passed that prevented BCBST from enforcing the mandate, it was alleged. Many submitted requests for religious exemption and reasonable accommodations including a telecommuting option (which was currently in place and was continuing for the entire year) or regular testing, it has been claimed.
In response, BCBST gave those individuals 30 days to get the vaccine, find a new job or be fired — requests for religious exemption were ultimately denied, according to the allegations.
They were ultimately let without any severance pay, lost years of accrued benefits while suffering humiliation and emotional distress, it was alleged.
“It has been very hard both emotionally and financially. I loved my position, planned on retiring from BCBST and to be discriminated against, my exemption request not accepted, and fired for this has been devastating,” said Anne F., one of the 41 employees who filed the lawsuit.
“To be cast aside and treated as less than was, simply put, a slap in the face,” said Kerrie I, another employee from the group.
BCBST was not immediately available for comment.