Court denies Nike’s request to dismiss lawsuit alleging its COVID jab mandate violated religious freedom – LifeSite

BEAVERTON, Oregon (LifeSiteNews) — A federal court late last month allowed a lawsuit to proceed against Nike that alleges the corporation violated the religious beliefs of its employees in the enforcement of its COVID-19 jab mandate. The decision came after the athletic footwear and apparel company filed a motion to dismiss the challenge.

In KERKERING, et al. vs. NIKE, INC, Doug Kerkering, Wanda Rozwadowska, and Hannah Thibodo, who worked at Nike’s corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, filed a lawsuit against the corporation in November 2022 for allegedly violating their religious beliefs by failing to grant exemptions to the sweeping mandate. 

Rozwadowska also argues the company committed battery against her when she was reportedly “coerced” to get the jab and suffered debilitating adverse reactions.

On July 31, U.S. District Judge for the District of Oregon Michael H. Simon largely denied Nike’s motion to have the case thrown out.

“The Court dismisses Plaintiffs’ first claim for relief, allowing only Plaintiff Thibodo leave to amend. Plaintiff Thibodo may file an amended complaint within two weeks from the entry of this Order to cure deficiencies in Thibodo’s allegations in the first claim,” Simon wrote. “The Court denies Defendant’s motion with respect to Plaintiffs’ second and third claims for relief.”

A second amended complaint was filed August 9.

The Health Freedom Defense Fund (HFDF), a 501(c)(3) legal non-profit that is backing the suit and whose legal victories include successfully suing U.S. President Joe Biden to vacate the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) mask mandate for air travel last year, said in a press release that the “denial of Nike’s Motion to Dismiss means that the case will now move forward with depositions, discovery, and litigation,” which the group described as a cause for celebration. 

Nike did not immediately respond to LifeSite’s request for comment.

“Obviously, Nike would have liked to make this case go away, for itself and for the rest of corporate America, as both brazenly disregarded the American ideals codified in our Constitution by violating employees’ rights to privacy, bodily autonomy and religious freedom,” HFDF president Leslie Manookian said in a statement. 

“HFDF hopes that by holding Nike accountable, this case will reverse corporate America’s recent intrusions into the private medical lives of employees,” she said.

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According to the lawsuit against Nike, all three plaintiffs who were fired after resisting the mandate, had been “valued employees” with no history of disciplinary action. They had held senior-level positions and brought in six-figure salaries. 

However, after the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent rollout of the coronavirus shots, the plaintiffs “got caught up in the political battle over COVID-19 vaccination.”

In October 2021, Nike issued its sweeping COVID-19 mandate requiring all office employees to get the experimental and abortion-tainted shots or face termination.

The legal challenge alleges that Nike “denied most requests for religious and medical accommodations” and “fired numerous employees, including [the] Plaintiffs, for failing to comply with the policy.”

Arguing that Nike viewed Kerkering and Thibodo as having a “perceived disability” by remaining unvaccinated because they allegedly didn’t have “the best protection against COVID-19,” the lawsuit claims that Nike ran afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against the plaintiffs “on the basis of an actual or perceived disability.” 

The suit further alleges that the corporation similarly violated Title VII “by failing to accommodate Plaintiff Rozwadowska’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

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Moreover, an additional claim alleges that the company exposed Rozwadowska “to unwanted and offensive physical touching, thereby battering her,” when she unwillingly received the COVID-19 vaccine after failing to secure a religious exemption.

“As a result of NIKE’s actions, Ms. Rozwadowska suffered personal injury, including extensive adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine which caused her to be unable to work and to eventually leave NIKE, all of which were foreseeable to NIKE,” the lawsuit claims.

In remarks to Legal Newsline, Manookian said this challenge is “the first time that I know of that someone has actually said that these vaccine mandates amount to battery.”

“It’s a forced kind of touching that is unwanted and it also has resulted in an injury,” she explained. “So, I think that’s a really important issue for us to adjudicate.” 

The lawsuit demands that Nike pay out $75,000 in damages to each of the plaintiffs, who “lost their jobs, their careers, and had to start over.”

“We refused to relinquish our right to bodily autonomy and medical freedom or violate our right to religious beliefs when Nike mandated the Covid injections and for that we suffered discrimination, violation of our privacy, and injury — ultimately losing our well-paying jobs and successful careers at Nike,” the plaintiffs said.

“We hope that by holding Nike accountable, we are standing for all Americans as we send a message to all corporations that their employees are not disposable and their rights must be honored,” they added.

Meanwhile, this isn’t the only legal challenge Nike is facing concerning alleged discrimination against employees who objected to the jab mandate on religious grounds.

A separate but similar lawsuit was filed against Nike in June by former employee Jamaal Galloway and is also moving forward.

In the August 9 press release, HFDF pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Groff v. DeJoy in June that companies must accommodate the religious beliefs of employees unless those beliefs cause “substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of” the company.

“Nike would have experienced no increased cost in accommodating these employees,” HFDF argued.