Jamie L. Ford and Margaret King of Sidney L. Gold & Associates P.C. are taking on the City of Philadelphia and District Attorney Lawrence S. Krasner for the first time, in what could be a landmark case involving vaccine mandates and religious affiliation.
In a complaint filed on April 12, 2022 by Jamie L. Ford and Margaret King of Sidney L. Gold & Associates P.C., counsel asserts that their client, former Assistant District Attorney Rachel Spivack, was terminated from employment for refusing to get vaccinated based on her sincerely-held religious beliefs of more than 20 years. Despite the plaintiff’s diligent compliance with the District Attorney’s Office requests for required and legitimate proofs, the City of Philadelphia and Krasner took the position that religious accommodations do not exist and instituted a no-religious exemption policy.
Ford and King set forth in the complaint that Ms. Spivack’s constitutional rights were violated, noting that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government’s burdening of a sincerely held religious belief. Counsel for Ms. Spivack further argues that the defendants also violated Spivack’s free exercise of religion, citing the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act. Counsel also asserts that the mandatory vaccine policy enforced by the District Attorney’s Office violates the fundamental rights of Ms. Spivack and others.
Because the COVID-19 vaccine mandate violates Spivack’s fundamental ordinance of religion, she is unable to comply with it, resulting in her alleged termination from employment. Defendants denied Spivack’s request for religious exemption from the District Attorney’s Office vaccine mandate, stating that it would constitute an undue hardship if it did not require all employees to be vaccinated in order to provide its employees with a safe workplace. However, they carved out exceptions for employees with serious medical conditions, as well as union represented employees, who are subject to collective bargaining.
Defendant Krasner allegedly reviewed all religious exemptions requests and denied each one. Spivack offered to wear a mask indefinitely, get tested weekly, and discussed other possible accommodations with her supervisor, such as remote work. However, Defendant Krasner allegedly reviewed all religious exemptions requests and denied each one, out-rightly forbidding religious exemptions to Defendants’ COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has granted exemption from its COVID-19 vaccination policies on medical and administrative grounds, which negates its claim that the vaccination is necessary and the only means available to achieve safety in its workplace. The District Attorney’s Office has been willing to accommodate employees for medical or administrative reasons, yet allegedly refused Spivack the same accommodations for religious reasons.
Jamie L. Ford, Margaret King and counsel argue that this demonstrates arbitrary hostility to religion by the defendants in this lawsuit.
Ms. Spivack’s counsel brings this action on behalf of their client for injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory damages, to prevent the immediate threat of interference with her constitutional and statutory rights. Ms. Ford and Ms. King have requested a trial by jury on behalf of Spivack. Christina Martinez, Esq. of the Law Offices of Christina M. Martinez of Staten Island, New York, will also serve as co-counsel on behalf of Ms. Spivack.
Employees who are being treated unfairly because of a negative reaction to the COVID-19 vaccination should seek legal advice. The Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. are ready to help defend your rights. Call 215-569-1999 or fill out an online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, the firm serves clients throughout Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.
Update 5/3/2022: The case has garnered additional media attention. Click the link below to read the Philadelphia Inquirer article on the case: