PJI On Track to Derail Amtrak
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has been retained by a significant number of Amtrak employees after Amtrak announced that its employees must receive a COVID vaccine or face unpaid leave. This decision will undoubtedly cause significant reductions in train service to thousands of people across the country.
Possibly as many as 1,000 Amtrak employees have submitted requests for religious accommodations regarding the COVID vaccine. In “granting” some of the requests, Amtrak has stated these employees, starting January 4, 2022, will be placed on an unpaid leave for ninety (90) days AND the employees CANNOT seek other employment during that time.
PJI asserts that under the law, this is unacceptable. Rather, Amtrak must show that the vaccine is the “least restrictive means” of achieving its desired “safety” goals. And quite simply, there are many other ways in which Amtrak could equally protect its workforce from and prevent the spread of COVID-19, including: mask wearing, social distancing, testing for antibodies, or periodic COVID-19 testing. Even the recent federal order regarding vaccine mandates for private employers contemplates testing as a viable option. Further, it is undisputed that these Amtrak employees have been working safely and following the COVID-19 safety protocols for well over 20 months since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. There is simply no evidence that continuing this work environment will place other employees or passengers at any higher risk. If anything, the risk is much lower now because, as stated by Amtrak CEO Mr. William J. Flynn, 88% of Amtrak workers have been fully vaccinated (Washington Post, 12/3/21). Other options abound! Which is why an “accommodation” of indefinite unpaid leave, or basically being fired, is wholly unreasonable and unacceptable.
PJI also believes that Amtrak is treating its employees who have requested a religious accommodation differently than those employees who have requested a medical accommodation. PJI has been informed that employees who have been granted a medical accommodation are being permitted to remain working on-site and in their current positions. Yet, it appears that none of those requesting religious accommodations have been allowed to remain working.
“We cannot stand idly by and watch strong people of faith have their religious rights deprived. Not only that, but also the fundamental right to support themselves and their families”, stated PJI President Brad Dacus.