LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A former University Medical Center nurse has filed a federal lawsuit against the hospital after she said she was fired for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine due to her Pagan beliefs, documents filed in court Tuesday said.
Julia Kidd, who is identified in the lawsuit as a former staff nurse, said the hospital fired her earlier this year, the lawsuit the 8 News Now Investigators reviewed Wednesday said.
Paganism is a polytheistic religion with ties to ancient Rome.
“Paganism is the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity,” the Pagan Federation International describes on its website. “In the present day, the Pagan tradition manifests both as communities reclaiming their ancient sites and ceremonies (especially in Eastern Europe), to put humankind back in harmony with the Earth, and as individuals pursuing a personal spiritual path alone or in a small group (especially in Western Europe and the European-settled countries abroad), under the tutelage of one of the Pagan divinities.”
Kidd requested a religious exemption from the vaccination policy due to her Pagan beliefs, the lawsuit said. Hospital staff asked Kidd to provide information regarding “her religious grounds,” to which she complied, the lawsuit said.
A vaccine mandate for health care facilities that receive federal funding went into effect in January. University Medical Center put in place its own mandate in 2021. A hospital spokesperson said in January the mandate led to a 97% vaccination rate among staff.
By January, Kidd had received no response about her exemption request, the lawsuit said. That same month, the hospital suspended Kidd for failing to comply with the vaccine requirement. Kidd claims she provided her superiors with the proper testing requirements, showing she was negative for the virus, the lawsuit said.
“Other employees of [the] defendant who were or are not Pagan were granted requested religious exemptions from having to be compelled to have a COVID-19 vaccination to continue to work for [the] defendant,” the lawsuit said.
UMC leaders suspended or terminated a handful of staff suspended for not complying with the mandate, a spokesperson said earlier this year.
“UMC received fewer than 200 vaccine accommodation requests from employees,” a UMC spokesperson said earlier this year. “Many employees who had their requests denied ultimately received the vaccine.”
The lawsuit asks a jury to decide whether the hospital should be required to pay Kidd lost wages, attorney’s fees and other damages. It was unclear if Kidd violated the hospital policy or the federal mandate.
The Nevada Equal Rights Commission issued Kidd a right to sue, the lawsuit said.
In December 2020, UMC became the first Nevada hospital to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to hundreds of frontline health care workers.
Nearly three-quarters of Clark County residents had initiated the vaccination process as of Wednesday. About 61% of people living in Clark County had received two doses of the COVID vaccine, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
Just 8% of Clark County residents were listed as “up-to-date” on their COVID vaccines, meaning they had received all doses up to the latest booster, according to SNHD.
New COVID variants continued to spread in Clark County, but the widespread vaccination rate has led to diminishing deaths.
The 14-day moving average (per 100,000 population) was at 159 cases each day in the county, and 219 for the whole state, as of last week. Deaths continue, with 22 deaths reported in Clark County in last week’s update. Statewide, 24 deaths were reported.