Flu shots: Seek accommodations if employee refuses vaccine for religious reasons.

Employers in the health care and food services industries often want to make sure their employees get common immunizations such as the seasonal influenza vaccination. The idea, of course, is that employees who get a flu shot are less likely to come down with the flu and consequently less likely to spread that illness to vulnerable patients or customers.

Plus, employees who don't get the flu won't need as much sick leave and won't incur medical expenses for flu treatment.

But employers must reasonably accommodate employees whose sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit immunization.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for those workers unless doing so would result in an undue hardship for the employer. Before a worker can claim protection, she has to let her employer know that she holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with a job requirement like getting a flu shot. She can't just refuse and sue after she's disciplined.

Recent case: Niaja worked for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for 15 years. Beginning in 2012, the hospital began requiring all employees to receive an annual flu vaccine to protect patients from seasonal influenza.

Niaja filled out a questionnaire the hospital circulated, indicating she didn't want to get the shot. She told a manager that she didn't understand why she had to get the shot when in the past she had "proven to remain healthy due to her African Holistic Health lifestyle."

When asked a few weeks later whether she had received her shot, she said she had not. The hospital fired her. Niaja sued, alleging religious discrimination.

But the court tossed out her lawsuit. It reasoned that Niaja had never raised a religious objection or...

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