LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A former classified employee is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), alleging she was fired in 2021 in retaliation for objecting to LAUSD’s mandatory employee coronavirus vaccine mandate on religious grounds.
Deborah Mak, as a special education assistant at Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation, and failure to accommodate.
Mak is seeking unspecified damages.
“The district’s mandatory vaccination policy, which includes the wholesale denial of exemptions and accommodations, is unsupported by any local, state or federal guidance,” the suit states.
A LAUSD spokesperson said the district could not comment on pending litigation but issued the following statement:
“Los Angeles Unified expects all of our teachers to be teaching students in their classrooms — whether virtual or in-person. In August 2021, the District announced its policy that all employees, contractors and other adults who provide services to our students are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“As students who had chosen to attend our Virtual Academy return to in-person learning, the number of available online assignments has decreased. Reasonable Accommodation approval for placement into the Virtual Academy has always been contingent upon availability and not a guaranteed assignment.
“The District continues to engage in the interactive process with all of its employees who currently do not comply with the District’s vaccine mandate,” the statement said.
Mak was hired in October 1999 and worked as a special education assistant. During more than 20 years of service, she had an unblemished record and was well-liked by students and co-workers, the suit states.
Last August, the district adopted a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all district employees to receive shots by mid-October while delaying the deadline for vaccinating students to this fall, the suit states.
“Despite shifting deadlines and an inconsistent application of its own policies, the district allowed unvaccinated kids to attend school and interact with the district’s vaccinated employees while at the same time claiming its goal was to keep kids and teachers as safe as possible,” the suit states.
The district had previously required all students and employees to test every week, wear masks indoors and outdoors, and practice social distancing, determining that such steps were reasonable in order to allow students to attend school, the suit states.
“These were acceptable, successful, working accommodations for employees, almost two years, since the start of the pandemic,” the suit states. “To that end, they were acceptable, successful, working conditions, and remain today as such, for almost every other employer in Los Angeles County.”
Mak’s request for a religious exemption to the vaccination requirement was denied, the suit states. Although the district had accepted the sincerity of Mak’s religious beliefs and acknowledged the conflict with the district’s policy, she was fired on Dec. 8 on invalid grounds of insubordination, disobedience and failure to follow procedure, according to the suit.
District representatives told Mak before she received the exemption request forms that the LAUSD had no jobs for unvaccinated employees, establishing that her firing was already pre-determined, the suit alleges.