RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION TO VACCINES
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes it unlawful to discriminate
against employees and prospective employees on the basis of religion, in addition to race, color,
national origin, and sex. Under Title VII, religion is very broadly defined and includes religious
observance, practice, and belief. Religious belief is also very broad, encompassing traditional
religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, to a sincere and meaningful belief that
occupies a place in the person parallel to that filled by God. United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S.
163, 166, 176 (1965). A person’s belief is religious if it is “religious” in the person’s “own
scheme of things.” Id., at . “[R]eligious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or
comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.” Thomas v. Rev. Bd.,
450 U.S. 707, 714 (1981).
If you have a sincerely held religious belief preventing you from receiving the Covid-19
vaccine or other vaccines, and your employer did not provide you with a reasonable
accommodation, you may have an actionable claim for religious discrimination. “Title VII
requires employers to consider requests for religious accommodations but does not protect
social, political, or economic views, or personal preferences of employees who seek exceptions
to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.” 1 Under Title VII, an employer has an obligation to
reasonably accommodate a person’s sincerely held religious belief.
An employer must make an individual assessment of the request. A sincerely held
religious belief should be assumed to be true by the employer unless (1) the employee’s past
actions are inconsistent with the stated belief; (2) the accommodation may be sought for
nonreligious reasons; or (3) the timing of the request is suspicious. However, a person’s religious
beliefs can change. Therefore, the employee’s stated religious belief is usually not in dispute
according to the EEOC.
An employer may deny a reasonable accommodation if that accommodation is based on
social, political, or other non-religious reasons or if the employer can demonstrate that the
religious accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer. An undue hardship may be asserted if the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would require more than a
minimal cost to the employer. See 29 CFR § 1605.2.
“A plaintiff . . . makes out a prima facie case of religious discrimination by proving: (1)
he or she has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) he
or she informed the employer of this belief; (3) he or she was disciplined for failure to comply
with the conflicting employment requirement.” Turpen v. Mo.-Kan.-Tex. R.R. Co., 736 F.2d
1022, 1026 (5th Cir. 1984).
“If the plaintiff makes this showing, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate that
he cannot accommodate the plaintiff’s religious practice without undue hardship to his business.”
Baz v. Walters, 782 F.2d 701, 706 (7th Cir. 1986). “If the defendant successfully rebuts the prima
facie case, the plaintiff, who has the ultimate burden of persuasion, must show that the
employer’s proffered reasons for failure to accommodate are a pretext for discrimination.” Id.
Title VII provides you with 180 days from the date of the discriminatory action to file a
complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which can be done here: US
EEOC. However, it is extended to 300 days if you initiate proceedings with the State of
Wisconsin law also makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees and prospective
employees on the basis of “age, race, creed, color, disability, marital status, sex, national origin,
ancestry, arrest record, conviction record, military service, use or nonuse of lawful products off
the employer's premises during nonworking hours, or declining to attend a meeting or to
participate in any communication about religious matters or political matters.” Wis. Stat. §
Discriminatory actions prohibited by Wisconsin law include any of the following:
“To refuse to hire, employ, admit or license any individual, to bar or terminate from
employment or labor organization membership any individual, or to discriminate against any
individual in promotion, compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment or
labor organization membership.” See Wis. Stat. § 111.322(1).
Wis. Stat. § 111.337(1) states “Employment discrimination because of creed includes, but
is not limited to, refusing to reasonably accommodate an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice unless the employer can demonstrate that the
accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer's program, enterprise
The statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the State regarding religious
discrimination due to your religious accommodation request denial is 300 days from the date the
discriminatory action was taken.
Call Us Today!
If you experienced discrimination from your employer as a result of your religious beliefs
by being terminated, demoted, harassed, retaliated against, religious exemption was denied, or
you have experienced another form of discrimination from your employer because of your
religious beliefs, give our law office a call at (414) 296-6225.
SCHOOL AND DAYCARE VACCINE EXEMPTIONS
Wisconsin law protects children and adult students from school and daycare vaccine
requirements by the right to a waiver for reasons of health, religion, or personal belief. Vaccine
requirements are waived if the adult student or the student's parent, guardian, or legal custodian
submits a written statement to the school, childcare center, or nursery school objecting to the
vaccination for reasons of health, religion, or personal conviction. Wis. Stat. § 252.04(3).
When you (parent, guardian, legal custodian, or student) are notified of the immunization
requirements by the school, childcare center, or nursery school, they must inform you in writing
of your right to waive the vaccine requirement. Wis. Stat. § 252.04(3).
Parents who choose to waive an immunization are required to sign a waiver on the
Student Immunization Record form, Student Immunization Record (wisconsin.gov), and list the
dates (month, day, year) of all of the vaccines the child has already received. The waivers for
health, religious and personal conviction reasons are denoted in Step 4 of the Student
Immunization Form. You may check the boxes denoting that you are waiving for health reasons,
for religious reasons, or personal conviction reasons by checking any and all that you sincerely
believe apply when choosing not to vaccinate the student. In addition to checking any and all
reasons for your waiver, you may check any and all immunization boxes that you sincerely
believe apply when choosing not to vaccinate the student that correlate the specific immunization
listed below to the specific reason for not vaccinating the student.
A “refusal of [vaccine name]” documented in the Wisconsin Immunization Registry
(“WIR”) does not constitute a valid waiver. The school is responsible for obtaining waiver
documentation. Ask the school for waiver documentation or send a written statement objecting to
the vaccination for reasons of health, religion, or personal conviction (philosophical objection) to
the school, childcare center, or nursery school.
Under Step 5, in addition to providing your signature and the date signed, you may give
permission or withhold permission to share your child’s current immunization records and as
they are updated with WIR by checking the box to the right of “I do” to grant permission, and “I
do not” to withhold permission.
If you feel your school, childcare center, or nursery school is violating your right to
waive the vaccine requirement for your child, give our law office a call at (414) 296-6225.