Home » Federal Jury Awards $687K to Tennessee Woman Fired for Vaccine Refusal

Federal Jury Awards $687K to Tennessee Woman Fired for Vaccine Refusal

by Richard A Reagan

Tanja Benton, a former biostatistical research scientist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), has been awarded nearly $700,000 by a federal jury after being fired for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds.

Benton, a biostatistical research scientist who had been with BCBST for several years, was among 41 customer service workers let go in 2021 after the company denied their requests for religious exemptions.

The firings occurred just weeks before a new Tennessee law would have prevented such mandates. According to reports from Fox 17 and Local 3 News, Benton’s lawsuit claimed her dismissal was a violation of Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

In a landmark verdict, Benton was awarded $177,240 in back pay, $10,000 in compensatory damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages, totaling $687,240. This verdict underscores the jury’s stance on protecting employees’ religious rights in the workplace.

The court’s decision came after a careful examination of Benton’s claims that the COVID-19 vaccines, which she believed were derived from aborted fetus cell lines, would “defile her body and dishonor God.”

This case mirrors a broader national debate over employer vaccine mandates, particularly concerning personal religious and ethical convictions.

Notably, a similar case involved healthcare workers at Illinois’s NorthShore University Health System, who settled for over $10 million due to the system’s vaccine mandate, highlighting a growing resistance to such requirements in various sectors.

BCBST defended its vaccine mandate as a measure for “the health and safety of our employees and members”.

Nonetheless, the jury’s decision in Benton’s case marks a critical point in the ongoing discourse around mandatory vaccinations and religious freedom.

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