Woman gets $700,000 settlement after being fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

The Tennessee woman is walking away with hundreds of thousands of dollars after losing her job for turning down the vaccine for religious reasons.

Tanja Benton, a former employee at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), received a settlement worth nearly $700,000 after being fired for refusing to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees.

Benton, a statistical research scientist, claimed that her decision to refuse the vaccine was based on a “sincerely held religious belief” that all COVID-19 vaccines are derived from aborted fetus cell lines and therefore violate her religious values.


The big picture: A federal jury found that Benton’s refusal to be vaccinated was based on her religious beliefs.

  • The jury awarded Benton over $177,000 in back pay, $10,000 in compensatory damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages.

The backstory: Benton filed a federal lawsuit against BCBST after submitting a request for a religious exemption but was denied.

  • BCBST fired Benton after she refused to comply with the company’s vaccine mandate, despite her appeal and explanation that her job did not include regular contact with people.
  • The company claimed that the vaccine requirement was necessary for the health and safety of its employees and at-risk members.
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