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Tennessee federal jury awards nearly 0,000 to former BlueCross employee fired for refusing to get Covid-19 vaccine

Tennessee federal jury awards nearly $700,000 to former BlueCross employee fired for refusing to get Covid-19 vaccine

A federal jury in Tennessee has awarded Tanja Benton, a former employee of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), nearly $700,000 after she was fired for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Benton, who held a position as a biostatistical research scientist, filed a request for a religious exemption when the health insurance company introduced a vaccine mandate for its employees in August 2021. She was fired in November 2021.

The court found that her refusal to receive the vaccine was based on a sincerely held religious belief, as Benton, citing personal research, claimed that all Covid-19 vaccines are derived from cell lines of aborted fetuses, which goes against her religious views on abortion.

Benton’s lawsuit alleged that her professional role, which involved limited direct interaction with clients, allowed her to successfully work remotely. Benton was an employee of BCBST for more than 16 years and had been working remotely since the start of the pandemic stay-at-home orders.

BCBST is estimated to have fired 41 of the 900 customer-facing employees who refused to get vaccinated following the order. Additionally, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against BCBST alleging unlawful discrimination against those employees who requested, but were denied, religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.