Both federal and Illinois laws provide protections for healthcare workers related to assisting, accommodating or performing healthcare services that conflict with a healthcare worker’s religious or moral beliefs. These laws may come into play when an employer terminates a healthcare worker because of a refusal to participate in healthcare services due to religious or moral objections.
What protections do these laws offer?
Federal conscience protections
Federal statutes make discrimination against healthcare workers because they participated in, objected to or refused to participate in a medical procedure, such as sterilization or abortion, due to religious or moral objections or refused to provide services or supplies used to cause the death of an individual. It also makes it illegal to coerce employees into performing procedures contrary to their moral or religious beliefs.
The state of Illinois also has a Health Care Right of Conscience Act. This act makes it illegal for public or private employers to discriminate against healthcare workers because they refused to obtain, receive, accept or participate in healthcare services because of a conscientious objection whether that objection is a religious one or not.
Conscience laws and wrongful termination
While it may be legal for employers to take actions, such as transferring an employee to a job that doesn’t require that employee to participate in the objectionable service, it is not legal to terminate an employee for refusing to participate in a service protected under federal or state law.
If your employer terminated you from your job because you refused to participate in a healthcare service based on a conflict with your religious or moral beliefs, you may have a wrongful termination case.