The Coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the world in which we live during the past two years. Recently, a lot of vaccines have been given full approval by the FDA, opening the doors to employers who might want to require their employees to be fully vaccinated. Some employees have even been fired because of their unvaccinated status. One of the recent high-profile examples is Nick Rolovich, who was the head coach of the Washington State football team. He was also one of the highest-paid employees by the state of Washington, as Washington state is a public school.
His situation has received a significant amount of attention during the past few months because of the high-profile nature of PAC-12 football. When Washington State decided to require all of its employees to be vaccinated, many were wondering how coach Rolovich would react. He still decided to remain unvaccinated, and was subsequently fired by the athletic director. The school also announced that he would be fired for cause, meaning that he would no longer be paid by the university.
Now, he is filing a wrongful termination against the school, claiming his firing was unlawful. It will be interesting to see how the case unfolds. The claim the former coach is making in the lawsuit is that he decided not to get vaccinated because of his steadfast Catholic faith. Of note, the Pope has encouraged everyone to get vaccinated as a way to overcome the pandemic. Right now, it is unclear if politics had any role in the coach’s decision to remain unvaccinated, but if he can prove that his vaccination status is directly related to his religious beliefs, he may claim that his firing is a violation of his first amendment rights giving him freedom of religion. The coach would have to prove that his vaccination status is related to his religious beliefs and show how he practices these religious beliefs in his everyday life.
Washington State is also a public institution, which could play a role in the legality of the lawsuit and the school’s regulations as the case moves forward. Of note, several other assistant coaches were also terminated by the university due to their refusal to get vaccinated.