PJI Sues Trader Joe’s for Anti-religious, Non-accommodative Mandate
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA—Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a federal lawsuit this week on behalf of a Trader Joe’s employee fired for requesting a religious accommodation to taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Gregg Crawford, a devout Christian throughout his adult life, worked as an exemplary management employee at Trader Joe’s for 26 years. In July 2021, Trader Joe’s announced that store managers must take the COVID-19 vaccine, a striking contradiction to the grocery store’s distinctive focus on natural, organic, preservative-free products. Crawford respectfully requested a religious accommodation that Trader Joe’s initially granted.
However, shortly after Crawford’s accommodation was initially granted, the grocery store’s regional manager informed Crawford that only vaccinated employees would be permitted to attend a required Leader’s Meeting in August; failure to attend the meeting would negatively affect Crawford’s performance review.
PJI’s staff attorney, Ronald Hackenberg, sent a letter to Trader Joe’s on Crawford’s behalf, pointing out the discriminatory nature of blocking Crawford from the meeting because he was not vaccinated and then subjecting him to adverse job actions for non-attendance. Although PJI’s letter suggested several alternatives that would allow Crawford to still attend the meeting, such as undergoing COVID-19 testing and participating by Zoom, Trader Joe’s refused to interact with Crawford to explore those accommodation options and instead fired him.
While Crawford’s letter through legal counsel reminded Trader Joe’s of state and federal law and suggested reasonable accommodations, Trader Joe’s described his communication as an “adversarial perspective” and a conflict with the interests of the company.
PJI initiated this case, Crawford v. Trader Joe’s, Case No. 5:21-cv-01519-JGB-SHK, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
“Trader Joe’s mandate that employees inject themselves with experimental vaccines while building an empire on giving customers natural, healthy options is hypocritical,” Brad Dacus, President of PJI, commented. “COVID-19 has not suspended the obligations of employers under federal and state law to take seriously and accommodate employees with religious objections.”
To see the actual complaint filed by PJI please click here.