LOS ANGELES – A nursing supervisor who worked for Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is suing her former employer, alleging she was fired in January just months before her retirement benefits vested because she objected on religious grounds to being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Marilee Males’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, religious creed discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation and a violation of the state Labor Code. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A representative for the county did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit filed Tuesday.
Males was hired in May 2018 and was a supervising health facilities evaluator for nursing in a Department of Health facility in El Monte. She received about $182,135 in annual pay and benefits and oversaw the work of about 10 nurses and four secretaries. She coordinated visits for various facilities, completed surveys, reviewed reports and addressed provider concerns.
In September 2021, Males requested an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine policy “on account of sincerely held religious beliefs,” the suit states.
“This demand for an exemption is based on my deeply held religious beliefs pursuant to my reliance on teachings in the Holy Bible,” Males wrote.
In March 2022, Males received a five-day suspension notice for allegedly not testing for the virus even though she had indeed done so, the suit states. The next day she was given another advisement of a five-day suspension, this time for “failure to comply with the vaccination requirement,” the suit states.
Males subsequently asked for a reconsideration of the denial of her bid for a religious exemption, but the request was denied in December, the suit states.
“Plaintiff was given 14 calendar days from the date of that notice to submit proof of receipt of first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,” the suit states.
Males received a letter Jan. 25 stating she was being terminated for her “failure to comply with the notice of vaccination requirement, which came four months before her benefits vested in which she would have received about $1,300 per month after retirement, the suit states.
Males also has lost future earnings and she suffers from anxiety, nausea, insomnia, headaches, depression and post-traumatic stress because of losing her job, the suit states.