Soap Operas are known for drama. Nothing has caused more drama in the last two years than vaccine mandates. Last week, a California court determined that a plaintiff’s request for religious accommodation at General Hospital could not be accommodated. The court concluded defendant had advanced sufficient evidence that unvaccinated employees threatened the health and safety of others during the relevant period and that “testing by itself was not sufficient to address the health and safety concerns associated with the global pandemic during the relevant time period.” Rademacher v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
The drama caused by the vaccine mandates is not limited to television sets. Over 2,000 lawsuits have been filed across the country challenging employer vaccine mandates. Many have been subject to motions to dismiss. Others are still making their way through the courts.
Many of the cases involve healthcare employers. Healthcare employers were among the first to require vaccines and in many places federal or state law compelled them to mandate vaccines for staff. Initial challenges to vaccine mandates alleged a wide variety of creative, but largely meritless, claims that were quickly disposed of by the courts. The most prevalent current challenge to the various vaccine mandates are claims for denied religious accommodation. Rademacher is one of the first cases to make it to summary judgment on this claim. In addition to granting summary judgment on the religious accommodation claim, the court also granted summary judgment on the privacy, breach of contract, retaliation and disability discrimination claims. The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that being unvaccinated was a physical/medical condition or a disability and rejected plaintiff’s claim that he was regarded as disabled.
Rademacher involved actors playing doctors. General Hospital is the long running soap opera, not an actual hospital caring for the most vulnerable populations. In Rademacher the actors were required to work in close proximity and the show decided not to write masks into the scripts. In real hospitals, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals regularly worked in close proximity to others, including those most vulnerable to COVID-19, presumably a far greater risk than that on the set of a fictional hospital in Port Charles.
This is likely the first of many more decisions on this issue.