Three Rhode Island teachers fired for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are suing the nation’s largest teachers union and its affiliates, alleging that the organizations failed to represent them during their termination.
Brittany DiOrio, Stephanie Hines, and Kerri Thurber, former Barrington Public School System teachers, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the National Education Association (NEA), the Rhode Island NEA and the NEA Barrington, alleging that the unions encouraged the school to terminate faculty who did not receive the vaccine and did not advocate for a religious exemption as required by Title VII and the RI Fair Employment Practices Act. The teachers were fired in 2021 after the school board refused to grant them a religious exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“The union’s action made the committee feel empowered to go forward with termination because the district would not represent these teachers,” Greg Piccirilli, the attorney for the teachers, told the Legal Insurrection. “In fact, at the pre-termination hearing on October 28, 2021, the union lawyer specifically said that the union felt that the committee had the power to adopt a vaccine mandate unilaterally without negotiating, and without any religious exemption.”
The union allegedly failed to defend the teachers when requesting a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine, the lawsuit alleged. Because the teachers union failed to step in, the teachers allegedly lost wages, benefits and suffered emotional distress.
The Barrington School Committee unanimously voted to lift its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for district faculty in April, the Barrington Times reported.
“Barrington Public Schools continues to encourage all staff and students to be fully vaccinated to assist in reducing disease severity and transmission,” the new policy stated.
On May 12, the Barrington Public School System agreed to settle with the three teachers it fired, paying them more than $33,000. As a part of the settlement with the school, the teachers’ termination was cleared from their record and they were offered their jobs back.
NEA Barrington declined to comment and the NEA and the Rhode Island NEA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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