Written by: Sam Orlando
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – Kristen Barnett, a former Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Supervisor at Inova Health System, has filed a lawsuit against her previous employer, Inova Health Care Services, alleging religious discrimination and failure to accommodate her beliefs. The case, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, cites violations of both federal and state laws.
Background of the Case
Mrs. Barnett, a resident of Aldie, Virginia, joined Inova in 2018 and was recognized as a superlative employee. Her responsibilities included serving on the System Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infection Committee and participating in the “Covid Committee” formed during the pandemic. However, her employment was terminated on July 5, 2022, following a dispute over Inova's Covid-19 vaccination policy.
Inova’s Covid-19 Vaccine Policy and Exemptions
In July 2021, Inova implemented a Covid-19 vaccine policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated, albeit with provisions for medical or religious exemptions. This policy was later revised, and employees were asked to reapply for exemptions. Mrs. Barnett, a devout Christian, initially received an exemption on medical grounds but later sought a religious exemption when the policy was updated. Her application for a religious exemption was denied by Inova’s Exemption Review Committee.
Allegations of Discrimination
The lawsuit alleges that Inova's denial of Mrs. Barnett’s exemption request constitutes religious discrimination. It claims Inova's committee selectively granted exemptions, favoring more conventional religious beliefs while rejecting less well-known or respected religious views like those held by Mrs. Barnett. As a result of this denial, Mrs. Barnett was placed on administrative leave and subsequently terminated, which she claims was retaliatory and punitive.
Legal Counts and Demands
The complaint brings forth three counts: Failure to Accommodate, Disparate Treatment, and Religious Discrimination under both federal (42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.) and state law (VA Code § 2.2-3900 et seq.). Mrs. Barnett seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement of employment, and an injunction against Inova’s vaccine policies, among other remedies.
Impact on Plaintiff
The lawsuit details the significant professional and emotional impact on Mrs. Barnett due to her termination. She has reportedly struggled to find comparable employment and has suffered emotional anguish and damage to her reputation in the medical field.
Ongoing Legal Proceedings
As the legal battle unfolds, the case is set to highlight critical issues surrounding religious freedom, employee rights, and workplace policies in the context of public health measures.
For further updates on this case and more, stay tuned to Breaking Through News.