MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Dozens of former Austal employees said their religious freedom were violated when the Mobile-based shipbuilder fired them last year for failing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine mandate has ended but the fight over what happened is just getting started.
It’s no coincidence that this lawsuit is being filed on the 4th of July–a holiday meant for freedom against tyranny. Attorney Brian Dasigner sees some historical parallels.
“A tyranny against bodily autonomy and they have bravely decided to step away from their jobs and chosen to defend their constitutional right to religious freedom,” said Dasigner.
The suit claims “Austal USA deprived the Plaintiffs of their constitutional right to protection under law.” It claims civil rights were violated for employees who were denied religious exemptions and violated the Americans with Disabilities ACT for those who claimed previous adverse reactions to vaccines.
The suit alleges they “were subjected to a discriminatory, hostile and offensive work environment because of their religious beliefs.” It also claims some employees were mocked and that their annual bonus was withheld. A company executive was quoted saying “if you’re a jerk or if you hurt this family, I’m taking it away from you.” Despite losing their jobs and regular income the plaintiffs we spoke with say this is a fight worth having.
“Part of my civil rights, I feel like my rights were violated when they denied the religious exemption I submitted,” said former Austal Employee Melissa Daidone. It’s a sentiment echoed by others.
“I lost my income, I lost insurance, my wife has had cancer and we’re 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 right for them to hold your job over your head to put something in your body that you refuse.” Plaintiffs we spoke with said they’re not against the vaccine–just the mandate. Even though the mandate was struck down, they claim they can’t get their old jobs back.
“The ones that have applied to get their jobs back haven’t been offered their jobs back, they’ve been offered something lesser that they’re overqualified for,” said plaintiff attorney Brian Dasigner. 53 people have signed onto the federal suit in Alabama. Dasinger said he’s also filing federal court complaints in Mississippi and Florida and represents a total of 60 former Austal workers. We reached out to the shipbuilder today but didn’t get a response. Previously on Friday, the company said they cannot comment on pending litigation.