LOS ANGELES – Two former Pomona College building maintenance workers are suing the Claremont-based educational institution, alleging they were wrongfully fired in 2021 for not getting a coronavirus vaccine due to their religious beliefs.
Adam Keeler, an assistant HVAC director, and Raymond Wilson, a technician II boiler, brought the suits Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, each alleging wrongful termination, discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodations and to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
The pair seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A Pomona College representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suits brought Monday.
Pomona College required the plaintiffs and other employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Aug. 9, 2021, or to apply for exemptions or deferral by then, the suits state. Both men asked for exemptions three days before the deadline, but their requests were denied due to lack of sufficient documentation, according to the suits.
Neither plaintiff opposed wearing a mask and submitting to testing as an alternative to being vaccinated, the suits state.
Keeler received a letter in late August 2021 denying his request pending his providing a history of his religious practice, a description of the church with which he was affiliated and the nature of his belief, the suit states. He additionally was asked to identify a religious leader from whom he received guidance as to how the vaccine conflicted with his faith, according to Keeler’s suit.
Keeler eventually contracted the coronavirus and went on leave for a little over a week and within 20 days of his return, he was told to get vaccinated, leaving Keeler uncomfortable both because of his religious believes and his recent bout with the virus, the suit states.
During a subsequent interview with human resources representatives, one of them asked for a report regarding his church attendance, but he explained there was no sign-in sheet at his house of worship, according to the Keeler suit.
Shortly after the interview, Keeler sent an email more fully explaining his religious beliefs and quoted some bible scriptures, but he was nonetheless fired last Sept. 22 “due to failing to uphold his managerial duties to enforce the vaccine mandate for his departments as three of his employees had requested religious exemptions as well,” the Keeler suit states.
Wilson also provided the school with more information about his religious beliefs, but he, too, was terminated the same day as Keeler, his suit states.
Both men have suffered humiliation and emotional distress since being fired, the suits state.