Nurse sues Exeter Hospital over termination for refusal to get flu vaccine

Suit claims religious discrimination and retaliation
Exeter Hospital

Exeter Hospital

A registered nurse is suing Exeter Hospital for firing her for not getting a flu vaccine because of her religious belief that her body should be kept as pure as possible.

Melissa Tripp, a resident of Stafford, started working at the hospital in June 2019. Although she was a nurse, the suit claims she worked behind an eight-foot partition, calling patient to review medical charts and did not provide direct patient care, according to the complaint that was filed in state court in February. Previously she had asked for a religious exemption and got it, but in 2020 – in the middle of the Covid crisis – the hospital wanting to know the nature of religious objection.

Tripp didn’t want to go into that.

“The nature of Ms. Tripp’s religious beliefs was, and are, none of (Exeter Hospital Inc.’s) business, as delving into them is intrusive and not allowed,” says the complaint.

The hospital wanted her to fill out a form that would be reviewed by a religious exemption review panel to ensure that the exemption is” firmly held and sincere,” which, says the complaint, is “contrary to individual’s, including Ms. Tripp’s, right to religious liberty.”

After being threatened with termination, Tripp explained she said she objected to fetal tissue, canine kidney cells, additional chemicals and additives, and stated, “We do not believe in changing our body in any way and keeping it as pure as possible.”

When asked about her religious denomination, the complaint said that employees should not have to explain their religious beliefs.

Tripp was denied the religious exemption last Nov. 27 and she was terminated on Dec. 1.

Tripp called the requirement an “assault” because she was put “in fear of physical contact” by the vaccine.

She is suing for religious discrimination, retaliation based on religion, failure to accommodation based on her religious beliefs and wrongful discharge and is asking for unspecified damages.

On Wednesday, the hospital moved the case to federal court in Concord. Exeter Hospital declined to comment on the case. The hospital is currently independent, but it in the midst of a merger with Beth Israel Lahey Health.

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