Two former General Hospital crewmembers, James and Timothy Wahl, are suing ABC after getting fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination in a lawsuit that portrays efforts to curb the spread of the virus as “unprecedented restrictions on liberty.” They’re being represented by the same attorneys who filed an identical suit on behalf of actor Ingo Rademacher, who was also dismissed over his refusal to get vaccinated.
“These actions were unlawful. ABC does not have the authority to force a medical treatment on its employees against their will,” reads the complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. “Even if it did, it must offer religious exemptions to anybody who requests one. It cannot discriminate among religions and cannot second-guess the sincerity of one’s religious beliefs without an objective basis for doing so. It did not have one here. ABC’s actions constitute religious discrimination and violate Plaintiffs’ rights under state law.”
More from The Hollywood Reporter
ABC implemented a vaccine mandate in the summer of 2021. The Wahls, who ran the construction shop and special effects department for General Hospital, requested a religious exemption but were denied.
According to the lawsuit, ABC subjected the Wahls to “cross-examination designed to elicit information that ABC could use” as pretext to deny their requests for religious exemptions. They allegedly weren’t told why their requests were denied.
“ABC said nothing else,” the complaint reads. “It did not ask Plaintiffs whether they could perform the essential functions of their jobs. It did not show that the company would be unduly burdened by continuing to employ Plaintiffs even if they did not get the Covid shots.”
Once ABC decided to recognize exemptions to its vaccine mandate, the Wahls argue that the company had no choice but to honor theirs. They claim that questioning the sincerity of their religious beliefs violates civil rights laws.
Lawsuits challenging terminations over refusals to get vaccinated for the virus have taken varied approaches. Rockmond Dunbar, an original castmember on 911 who sued Disney and 20th Television, claimed religious and racial discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract and filed his lawsuit in California federal court. The Wahls and Rademacher sued in state court, alleging violation of privacy rights, disability discrimination and failure to accommodate, among other claims. One consistency has been the way in which Disney and its affiliates handle requests for religious exemptions. It appears that the interviews vetting the requests are conducted by Disney lawyers, who look into the backgrounds of the individuals who are requesting exemptions. Dunbar’s religious exemption was denied because he had previously received tattoos and ear piercings in violation of his beliefs as a member of the Church of Universal Wisdom. An unnamed representative linked to the actor also allegedly told Fox that his wife threatened to divorce him if he got the vaccine.
Much of the Wahls’ lawsuit is dedicated to downplaying the impact of the vaccine on limiting the spread of COVID-19. It questions why people were told to get vaccinated when they can still contract the virus.
“This should not be a political issue,” the lawsuits states. “There is no need for everybody to get the Covid-19 shot, especially since the shots do not prevent infection.”
More than 83 percent of Americans over the age of 5 have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine has extensively been found to help prevent infection, and to provide particularly strong protection against severe disease and death.
ABC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.