Alabama Retiree Community’s COVID Vaccine Mandate Violated Employees’ Religious Rights

SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WKRG) – Former employees of a retirement community have filed a lawsuit claiming their religious freedoms have been violated. Former Westminster Village employees say the company initially accepted their religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine, but about a month later the decision changed and they were fired.

Katherine Howerin and Tina Wolfe said the COVID-19 vaccine went against their religious beliefs, so when their workplace announced the requirement, they asked for a religious exemption.

Howerin worked in Westminster Village for eight years. When she was fired, she was director of nursing. She explained that her position meant she didn’t have as close contact with residents as other employees.

“My exemption was approved in mid-September,” Howerin said. “And then on October 7, my admin gave me a letter and basically rescinded the exception.”

Wolfe worked for Westminster Village for 12 years. At the time she was fired, she said she was the RN supervisor. Wolfe said: “I was shocked because I didn’t think they could do that. How can they tell us that they cannot accept our exemption when they have already done so.

The couple told WKRG News 5 that their last day at Westminster was in October. Almost a year later, they are part of a larger group suing the company for damages with the same lawyer handling a similar lawsuit for former Austal employees, Brian Dasinger .

“We think they should be penalized for what they did,” Dasinger said. “For the particular cruelty of granting the exemptions and then refusing them a month later.”

Dasinger says Westminster gave three reasons for refusing the exemptions.

“[An] alarming increase in COVID-19 cases across the United States, an alarming increase among staff and residents, and new information regarding the virus and vaccines,” Dasinger explained.

But he said he refuted all three claims. And about a week ago, Howerin and Wolfe received a letter saying they could reapply to the company.

“I didn’t sleep the night after we received this letter because it brought back all the emotions of the four or five months we were dealing with all of this. I mean, it was just a slap. Oh okay we let you go a year ago but you can come back now we changed our minds,” Howerin said.

The women said they knew they had a long way to go, but were hopeful about the outcome of their case.

“If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, who else will?” Wolfe said.

“I feel like I have to stand up for what I believe in if no one else is going to,” Katherine said.

WKRG News 5 spoke to a spokesperson for Westminster Village’s parent company, Acts Retirement-Life Communities, and received the following statement:

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Westminster Village has sought to create the safest living and working environment for our residents and staff. As part of our processes, we have implemented a vaccination mandate for all employees and considered the implications of the variations on the health and safety of our communities. As circumstances continue to evolve and the availability of treatments has increased, we have continued to evaluate our protocols and modified them as needed. Currently, the employee vaccination mandate remains in place, with accommodations for those with approved religious and medical declinations. »

Michael Smith – Director of Corporate Communications

To read the full complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, CLICK HERE.

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