A hospital worker who was fired for refusing to get a shot of the flu vaccine has won a $45,000 payout from the facility he used to work for, according to a press release by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The worker, who is unnamed in the press release dated December 22, had asked the hospital—Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Inc. (CHOA)—in 2019 to be exempted from the facility's flu vaccination requirements based on "sincerely held religious beliefs," something which the hospital allows in its procedures.

Despite the fact that the hospital had already granted the same employee a religious exemption in 2017 and 2018, the following year CHOA denied his request and fired him. This happened despite the employee being a maintenance worker and having little interaction with the public or members of staff, according to the EEOC.

The former employee then filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the CHOA thriough the federal agency in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, which eventually ruled in his favor.

The EEOC said that the reported conduct of the pediatric hospital "violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits firing an employee because of their religion and requires that employers reasonably accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees."

The lawsuit will also change the way the hospital considers flu shot exemptions. According to the EEOC, CHOA will have to "pre­sume the exemption eligibility of employees with remote workstations or who otherwise work away from the presence of other employees or patients, and to protect the ability of such employees to seek alternative positions within CHOA if their religious exemption request is denied."

The ruling also requires CHOA to train "relevant employees" on religious accommodation rights under Title VII.

Vaccine mandates are common for health workers, as they are considered to have an obligation towards their patients' safety. But mandatory vaccines have recently become a particularly contentious issue, especially after the COVID-19 emergency.

"It is the responsibility of an employer to accommodate its employees' sincerely held religious beliefs," said Marcus G. Keegan, the regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta District Office, in a written statement.

"Unless doing so would require more than a minimal cost, an employer may not deny requested religious accommodations, let alone revoke those previously granted without issue. The EEOC is pleased that the employee has been compensated and that CHOA has agreed to take steps to ensure that it meets its obligation to evaluate religious accommodation requests in a manner consistent with federal law."