Federal lawsuit claims employees’ religious rights violated in Austal Vax tenure
MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Dozens of former Austal employees have said their religious freedom was violated when the Mobile-based shipbuilder fired them last year for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine’s term is over, but the fight over what happened has only just begun.
It is no coincidence that this lawsuit is being filed on July 4, a holiday meant for freedom from tyranny. Lawyer Brian Dasigner sees historical parallels.
“A tyranny against bodily autonomy and they bravely decided to retire from their jobs and chose to defend their constitutional right to religious freedom,” Dasigner said.
The lawsuit claims that “Austal USA deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional right to the protection of the law.” He claims civil rights were violated for employees who were denied religious exemptions and violated the Americans with Disabilities ACT for those who claimed prior adverse reactions to vaccines.
The lawsuit alleges that they “were subjected to a discriminatory, hostile and offensive work environment because of their religious beliefs.” He also claims that some employees were mocked and their annual bonus was withheld. A company executive was quoted saying “if you’re a jerk or hurt this family, I’ll take it off you.” Despite losing their jobs and regular income, complainants we spoke to say it’s a worthwhile fight.
“Part of my civil rights, I feel like my rights were violated when they refused the religious exemption I submitted,” former Austal employee Melissa Daidone said. It is a sentiment shared by others.
“I lost my income, I lost my insurance, my wife had cancer and we are still without insurance,” said former Austal worker Glenn Lund. “I liked where I worked, I liked who I worked for, I just don’t think it’s fair for them to keep your job above your head to put something in your body that you refuse.” Complainants we spoke to said they weren’t against the vaccine, just against the warrant. Even though the mandate has been canceled, they claim that they cannot get their old jobs back.
“Those who applied to get their jobs back were not offered their job, they were offered something less for which they are overqualified,” plaintiff attorney Brian Dasigner said. 53 people have signed the federal lawsuit in Alabama. Dasinger said he was also filing suits in federal courts in Mississippi and Florida and representing a total of 60 former Austal workers. We contacted the shipbuilder today but received no response. Earlier Friday, the company said it could not comment on ongoing litigation.