JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville man is suing his employer, contact lens manufacturer Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, for requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A lawyer for Peter Cerreta, a senior engineer for the Southside business, is arguing the requirement would violate his religious liberty protections under the U.S. Constitution unless he’s given a permanent waiver.
In August, the company approved a short-term “accommodation” for Cerreta through Dec. 8, but the suit asks for an injunction blocking his employer from firing him for not being vaccinated.
Without that injunction, argues an updated complaint filed Sunday, Cerreta “would have to choose to violate his religious [convictions] and convictions of conscience if he is to keep his employment.”
The suit says Johnson & Johnson Vision Care had set Monday as the deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated. It’s not clear whether the lawsuit will impact that deadline.
The suit also targets Johnson & Johnson, the contact lens maker's parent company that controls the single-shot vaccine chosen by millions of Americans.
Johnson & Johnson officials wouldn't comment directly on the lawsuit Monday, but a spokesman said the vaccination policy was developed to create a safe working environment.
"As the world’s leading and most broadly-based health care company, we believe in science and trust in the processes of bringing life-saving medicines and vaccines to market — and the science proves that getting vaccinated is the most important step in protecting ourselves and our communities," spokesman Carlos Taveras said by email.
The suit doesn’t say what Cerreta’s beliefs are or how vaccination would conflict with them, but it says the issues raised are important to many other employees.
“There are millions of individuals in the United States of America with deep religious convictions, convictions of conscience that fear gubernatorial and corporate bureaucratic mandates and requirements to vaccinate against COVID-19. There is great public interest in obtaining resolution to the question,” says the suit filed by attorney Jack Andreas Krumbein.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires private employers to take workers’ religious objections to vaccinations into account. But in past cases, courts have said adjustments to policies that are more than minimal concessions can create “undue hardship,” particularly if they’re made “at the expense of others,” including co-workers, a February report to Congress by the Congressional Research Service said.