According to the federal lawsuit filed on October 27, Sara Pedro claims the N.C. hospital treated her unfairly when she sought accommodations for her religious beliefs. During an emergency room orientation in 2016, the instructor allegedly explained that even staff with religious objections would be expected to participate in abortions.
Pedro was able to get an exemption from receiving vaccines soon after she started working at Duke. In December 2016, she informed her employer that she could not in good conscience aid in abortions, providing contraceptives or administering vaccines. What followed, according to Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), were "several specific acts of retaliation."
"For example," the TMLC press release goes on, "Duke refused to advance Ms. Pedro from training status to regular duty, issued her a written warning for vague and unsubstantiated reasons and then placed her on administrative leave when she attempted to formally dispute the warning."
The nurse, a devout Catholic, objected to contraception and abortion because they are opposed to Catholic doctrine. Faithful Catholics believe that abortion destroys an innocent human life and that contraception thwarts God's plan for human sexuality as an image of His love and a chance to work with Him in the creation of new life.
Her objection to vaccines is based on the grounds that some vaccines are created through experiments on human fetuses. A 2005 memo from the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life notes that some vaccines are morally "tainted" by this abuse of human life.
Pedro had eight years of experience as a nurse in New York and never once was punished for living out her beliefs in the workplace.
In an email, TMLC attorney Tyler Brooks summarized the legal basis of the case:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on several bases, including religion (as well as the more familiar categories of race and sex). Moreover, to comply with Title VII, an employer must accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Furthermore, Title VII prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who has engaged in "protected activity," which includes complaining about perceived discrimination, as well as requesting an accommodation.
In this case, we allege that Duke violated all three aspects of Title VII described above. First, Duke failed to ever provide Ms. Pedro a final answer on her request for a religious accommodation. We also allege that when Duke learned of Ms. Pedro's religious beliefs it began to discriminate against her in violation of Title VII's bar on religious discrimination. Additionally, our suit contends that Duke retaliated against Ms. Pedro because she made religious accommodation requests and because she complained about perceived discriminatory and retaliatory conduct.
She is being represented in court by the TMLC. (The center is not to be confused with the Thomas More Society, the non-profit law firm representing pro-life warrior David Daleiden.)
Michelle Piccolo, TMLC spokesperson, wrote a piece on Tuesday for LifeNews covering the lawsuit. She argues, "Duke's policy and actions violate several federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Labor Standards Act, North Carolina's Wage and Hour Act and North Carolina common law."