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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

Horvath v. City of Leander

Overview

Horvath v. City of Leander (U.S. Court of Appeals – Fifth Circuit, Jan. 13, 2020): The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Leander, Texas (the City) regarding discrimination and First Amendment claims by a fire department employee who objected to the City’s TDAP vaccine requirement on religious grounds. The City offered two accommodations: (1) reassignment to a different position with the same pay; or (2) use of protective measures, like wearing a respirator while on duty. After refusing to select one of the offered accommodations, the employee was fired for insubordination. The Fifth Circuit concluded that the City did not engage in religious discrimination or retaliation under Title VII or the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. Its offer to transfer the employee to a new position with the same salary was reasonable as a matter of law. Despite schedule differences, a “reasonable” accommodation need not be the employee’s preferred accommodation. Additionally, insubordination constituted a non-discriminatory reason for his termination. Finally, the City’s offer for him to wear a respirator on duty enabled him to freely exercise his religion in his current position and did not burden his First Amendment rights. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – February 18, 2020.

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