Tennessee Woman Wins $687,000 Settlement After Being Fired for Declining COVID-19 Vaccine on Religious Grounds

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A Tennessee woman was awarded nearly $700,000 in a settlement after a federal jury agreed that her termination from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) was unjust. The company had fired her for not adhering to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which she opposed due to her religious beliefs. Tanja Benton, a former biostatistical research scientist at BCBST, challenged her 2022 dismissal in federal court, asserting that her refusal to receive the vaccine was rooted in a sincere religious conviction. The jury awarded Benton more than $177,000 in lost wages, $10,000 for emotional distress, … Read more

Idaho Lawyer Known as ‘Christmas Lawyer’ Eyes Supreme Court Appeal in Ongoing Religious Discrimination Dispute Over Elaborate Holiday Display

Hayden, Idaho — A local attorney, known locally as the ‘Christmas lawyer’ for his extravagant holiday light displays, may find his ongoing legal dispute reaching the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, which has stirred significant attention, centers around Jeremy Morris and his homeowners’ association (HOA) in Hayden, a small community just east of Spokane, Washington. Morris first drew national attention in 2015 after he showcased a Christmas display involving over 200,000 lights, live music, a nativity scene with a camel, and events benefiting children’s charities. This spectacle did not sit well with … Read more

Jury Sides with Former Employee over Religious Exemption to Vaccine Mandate, Awards Over $600,000 in Damages

Chattanooga, Tennessee — A Chattanooga-based health insurance company, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has been ordered to pay $687,000 to a former employee who was dismissed for not complying with the company’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement. A federal jury concluded after a three-day trial that the company failed to reasonably accommodate Tanja Benton’s religious beliefs. Benton, a biostatistical research scientist, predominantly worked from home and maintained her work responsibilities did not necessitate physical interaction, which she argued made her physical vaccination unnecessary. She held the position for over six years before her termination in November 2021. Benton’s … Read more

Jury Awards Ex-BlueCross Scientist Over $687K for COVID-19 Vaccine Dismissal on Religious Grounds

Chattanooga, TN – A Tennessee federal court has awarded more than $687,000 to a former BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee scientist after she was dismissed for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, citing religious beliefs. The decision, which could influence the way companies handle similar cases, underscores the conflicts between employer policies and individual rights under religious freedom protections. Tanja Benton, a longtime employee with over 17 years at BlueCross BlueShield, held a position as a bio statistical scientist before her separation from the company. The legal proceedings established that her refusal of the vaccine stemmed from … Read more