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A judge has reversed a decision from the University of Virginia Health System to fire a woman after she chose not to take the COVID vaccine and applied for a religious exemption.
Virginia District Judge Claude V. Worrell ruled last week that the UVA Health System had wrongfully terminated Kaycee McCoy, a cytotechnologist there for more than ten years, according to court documents.
“Because UVA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, this court reverses their decision to fire Plaintiff for failing to be vaccinated from Covid-19. They are hereby enjoined from preventing her employment on the basis of vaccination as long as she continues to qualify for a religious accommodation properly applied,” the judge ruled, a decision first reported by the Epoch Times.
Worrell ruled that McCoy should be given back pay with interest from the time she was fired to the time of his decision.
McCoy, who aided in screening cancer cells and other pathological conditions, was fired in November 2021 after she applied for a religious exception to the COVID vaccine with a letter from her pastor. Her application was denied, and she was given no opportunity to appeal, according to Worrell’s decision.
Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin removed the vaccine mandate for state employees, but some federal vaccine requirements still applied for entities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. Worrell noted that these mandates are still subject to religious and medical exemptions.
While Biden’s vaccine mandate for workers was overturned by the Supreme Court after a suit from a number of groups, including The Daily Wire, the end of the mandate for healthcare workers was only announced in June 2023.
While the judge said that religious rights were not absolute, the health system should have allowed a religious exemption in this case because she had shown evidence of her “sincerely held religious beliefs that allowed her to seek an exception.”
The judge’s decision was praised by the religious liberty advocacy group First Liberty Counsel.
“This is an important victory for religious liberty and for those who have not caved into these unlawful shot mandates. Forcing an employee to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their job is highly unconstitutional. Applying for a religious exemption is a legal right and cannot be arbitrarily denied,” Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said.