A judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that had accused the Federal Reserve Bank of New York of illegally terminating two long-term employees who refused COVID-19 vaccinations on religious grounds, Reuters reported.
The two former employees, Lori Gardner-Alfred and Jeanette Diaz, had worked at the New Yok Fed for 35 and 27 years, respectively, before being dismissed in March 2022. At the time of their termination, Gardner-Alfred and Diaz were senior executive specialists, the wire service noted.
In a 52-page decision, U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman in Manhattan said the plaintiffs could not prove their serious religious objections to vaccination.
Gardner-Alfred, of the Bronx, claimed that the Temple of Healing Spirit, of which she is a member, objects to “invasive techniques.” Diaz of Bayonne, New Jersey, stated that the vaccine was made up of aborted fetal cells and that getting vaccinated would be inconsistent with what the church taught.
However, Liman said Gardner-Alfred failed to prove that she belonged to the Temple of Healing Spirit, followed its supposed practices, or objected to the vaccine before the New York Fed dispute cropped up.
The judge also said Diaz’s belief involving aborted fetal cells seemed to have been recently adopted and that she may have also had secular objections to vaccinations. Liman cited Diaz’s subscription to eight anti-vaccine newsletters and a December 2021 email she sent to Gardner-Alfred. In the email, Diaz rearranged the letters in the COVID-19 variants “Delta” and “Omicron” to spell out “Media Control.”
In his decision, Liman noted that it would be an “extreme proposition” to make allowance “whenever someone with a political objection to a rule wraps that objection in religious garb.”
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, John Balestriere, said in an email response to Reuters that they respectfully disagree with the judge’s conclusions and are discussing the next course of action.
Banks have usually steered clear of basing employment decisions on COVID-19 vaccine status. But, Citi, in 2022, threatened to fire office-based employees who failed to upload their COVID-19 vaccination card or request an exemption by a Jan. 14 deadline. would be placed on unpaid leave the next day and terminated by month-end.
The lender placed roughly 150 employees on leave for not meeting the deadline, The Wall Street Journal reported, but added that those employees could keep their jobs if they complied with the company mandate by Jan. 31.
A ruling in January 2022 blocked enforcing vaccine mandates for businesses with 100 employees or more, according to Fox Business. Sara Wechter, Citi’s head of human resources, said in a LinkedIn post at that time that 99% of the bank’s employees complied with the vaccine mandate.