PJI Sues to halt City of Los Angeles from Cheating Employees out of Religious Accommodations
LOS ANGELES—Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) and affiliate attorney Daniel Watkins filed a federal lawsuit last week on behalf of Los Angeles Police Department employees to bar the City from depriving employees of their rights to seek religious accommodations to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The City announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on August 20, 2021, for not only full-time and part-time City employees, but also individuals such as volunteers, interns, 120-day retired employees, and elected officials. The City set a deadline of September 7 for employees to submit religious accommodation requests and comply with mask requirements, physical distancing, weekly COVID-19 testing, and vaccine training.
However, neither the City nor the LAPD implemented a procedure to submit or review religious accommodation requests before the deadline, leaving hundreds of LAPD employees with no choice but to submit religious accommodation requests without direction.
The LAPD obstructed the processing of nearly half of those religious accommodation requests and has not yet processed the rest. Unvaccinated LAPD employees who sought accommodations have since endured an onslaught of hostile demands, threats of being terminated, and accusations from commanding officers, such as statements that they lack “sympathy and caring” for COVID-19 issues and that they are “unfit to wear the uniform.”
On Friday, September 10, the City at last provided an online portal for employees to submit their accommodation requests. But the City announced that the portal would close on Monday, September 13, and would not accept requests submitted outside the short 72-hour window.
“PJI stands with these LAPD employees who, instead of being provided an avenue to exercise their constitutional and statutory rights to request accommodations, were shamed and cheated out of those rights by their own Department,” stated Brad Dacus, President of PJI. “We have asked the court to require the City to respect and immediately accommodate employees who have sincerely held religious beliefs.”
PJI and Daniel Watkins of Watkins & Letofsky, LLP initiated this case, Burcham, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No. 2:21-cv-07296, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. To see the Complaint filed in this case, click here.