The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against UnitedHealthcare in federal court Tuesday, alleging the health insurance giant's COVID-19 vaccine policy violated federal civil rights law.
The agency sued UnitedHealth in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio alleging it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from religious discrimination in the workplace.
UnitedHealth did not immediately respond to an interview request.
The EEOC's lawsuit comes on behalf of Amanda Stone, a former supervisor of clinical administration at UnitedHealth who had been working remotely full time since 2018, according to the lawsuit.
UnitedHealth in October 2021 implemented a policy requiring all employees who met in-person with members, customers, providers or visited the company's offices to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the lawsuit alleges. UnitedHealth issued a notice stating the policy did not apply to full-time remote workers, the complaint alleges.
In spite of her telecommuting full time, Stone received a notice that month saying she needed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the lawsuit alleges. She submitted a religious accomodation request, which UnitedHealth denied, according to the complaint. When Stone asked her manager how to appeal the decision, the manager instructed her to submit another religious accomodation request, according to the lawsuit. Stone submitted another request in November 2021, which the company similarly rejected, the complaint alleges.
UnitedHealth did not provide any information about why Stone's requests were denied, the lawsuit alleges. The company placed Stone on unpaid administrative leave at the end of November 2021 and fired her in January 2022, according to the lawsuit.
"[UnitedHealth] failed or refused to provide Stone with a reasonable accommodation of her sincerely held religious beliefs," the lawsuit alleges.
The EEOC's lawsuit seeks to recover back pay and punitive damages for Stone.