Former employees sue Walt Disney World, alleging religious discrimination
The popular theme park is facing a lawsuit over its approach to religious exemption requests to vaccination and masking policies
On June 30, former Walt Disney World employees Barbara Andreas, Stephen Cribb and Adam Pajer sued the park for violating their religious beliefs. They say they were unlawfully terminated because of their faith-based concerns about pandemic-related safety protocols, according to The Associated Press.
All three employees were fired earlier this year after refusing to wear masks and socially distance when unvaccinated, the lawsuit claims. They had each worked at the park at least seven years.
In her request for a religious exemption from Disney’s policies, Andreas referred to a belief that many Americans have cited to explain their resistance to COVID-19 vaccines. She said “participating in a medical experiment, such as COVID testing or vaccines” involving aborted fetal cells would be an “affront” to her Christian beliefs, according to the lawsuit.
Although cells descended from aborted fetuses were used in the development of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the COVID-19 shots “do not contain fetal cells,” as The Associated Press previously reported. Despite this fact, many religious objectors have raised abortion-related concerns when explaining their resistance to vaccination.
Both Cribb and Pajer also cited Christian beliefs and biblical texts to try to circumvent Walt Disney World’s policies, the AP reported.
The article pointed out that Florida passed what was referred to by the state as, “the strongest pro-freedom, anti-mandate action taken by any state in the nation” in November, which disrupted Disney’s vaccine policies. The law prohibited private employers from implementing vaccine mandates and said that employees could seek faith-based and other exemptions and “choose to opt for periodic testing or PPE.”
In response to the new law, Walt Disney World removed its vaccine mandate, although Disney World’s website still encourages people to get vaccinated. The company continued to require unvaccinated individuals to wear face masks and socially distance.
After submitting a religious exemption request regarding the masking rules, Andreas received a letter from Disney on Dec. 29 refusing her request, according to the AP. “After careful review of the information you provided, we are unable to conclude that you are prevented from wearing a face cover due to a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance,” it said.
“The lawsuit claims that Disney’s ‘augmented protocols’ that were forced on nonvaccinated employees consisted of ‘harsh isolation and restrictions’ that caused ‘serious breathing’ and made it ‘nearly impossible to find a compliant manner and location in which to eat or drink while on shift,’” The Associated Press reported.
Andreas, Cribb and Pajer are seeking monetary compensation for “lost wages, benefits and attorney’s fees,” the article said.