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Lawsuit: Ascension Health's vaccination policy 'coercive, a charade'

One of the main arguments is that Ascension Health had no intention of granting religious exemptions.

INDIANAPOLIS — Ascension St. Vincent may face a class-action lawsuit for its COVID vaccination policy.

A newly-filed suit claims the company's religious exemption option was "coercive" and a "charade."

13 Investigates has read through the 208-page document. One of the main arguments is that Ascension Health had no intention of granting religious exemptions. The employees say the company failed to "individually and properly assess each application for a religious exception" and failed to try to find an accommodation. They also argue the timing of the exemption and appeals process was designed to "force" workers to "abandon their religious objections" to the vaccine.

Over the phone, one of the attorneys told 13News he doesn't know of anyone who was immediately granted a religious exemption, telling me all 64 of the nurses, doctors and other health care workers named in the lawsuit were denied their request without the company even challenging the sincerity of their religious beliefs.

The lawsuit says there wasn't even an attempt to try and accommodate employees, which they argue is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The suit says the process led to stress, financial strain, anxiety and even depression. 

One woman lost her house. Another man says he got the vaccine despite his religious convictions and worries the stress contributed to him having a heart attack.

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Court documents argue the suspensions and forced resignations were not needed, pointing out Ascension Health recalled hundreds of employees after their religious exemptions were denied. 13 Investigates reached out to the company to clarify, however a spokesperson said in an email it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

RELATED: CDC advisers urge Pfizer booster for children ages 5 to 11

Now, former and current employees are suing for damages including back pay.

Attorneys are asking for class-action status. If that happens, they think they may have more than 2,500 plaintiffs.

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