Manitoba man fired for refusing to disclose COVID vax status sues pharma giant Bayer

A Manitoba man is suing pharmaceutical giant Bayer, claiming he was fired for refusing to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

The lawsuit alleges the man’s job was terminated in January “without cause” and in violation of his employment contract. CBC News is not naming the man due to personal health information.

He had worked for about 18 years at Bayer Inc., a company with divisions including pharmaceuticals and agriculture, operating in Germany, the United States and Canada, including Winnipeg.

He was a program manager and did his job entirely from home, before and during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his statement filed April 7 in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg.

The lawsuit says his vaccination status for COVID-19 or any other illness was not part of the terms of the employment contract.

Bayer Inc. unilaterally implemented the vaccination requirement and made it effective in January 2022, according to the allegation.

“It was not a clause in his employment contract that he had an obligation to disclose personal health information,” the claim states, adding that the man requested an exemption from the policy but was denied. .

Since he worked from home, “neither his duties nor the employment contract required face-to-face interaction with other employees of defendant (Bayer Inc.), its customers or other stakeholders,” the complaint states.

Vaccination “a pillar of public health” according to Bayer

The allegations have not been tested in court and Bayer has not yet filed a defense brief.

“Bayer is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment, including reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection to employees,” a company spokesperson said in an email to CBC. News.

“As a life sciences organization, we believe in the effectiveness of vaccines. Vaccination against COVID-19 is a mainstay of public health advice and key to providing a safe work environment for all of our employees and those with whom they come into contact.

Bayer said it would not comment further on litigation issues. The plaintiff’s attorney also declined to comment.

A Toronto labor lawyer says workers facing the impact of vaccination status on their work are among the most common issues employees have faced in recent months. (New Africa/Shutterstock)

Toronto labor and employment lawyer Lior Samfiru, who is not involved in the case, says his firm has represented clients across Canada whose jobs have been affected by their vaccination status.

“I can tell you that this is one of the most common issues that employees have faced over the past six or seven months, which relates to their vaccination status and the impact of this status on their work,” said he said in an interview.

“Wrongful dismissal means you are fired without compensation. So if he had received proper severance pay, it wouldn’t be wrongful dismissal,” Samfiru said.

The lawsuit alleges the employer failed to compensate the man and seeks an unspecified sum of money in general damages for wrongful termination.

He is also seeking aggravated and punitive damages for the manner in which he was terminated, such as allegedly failing to give him a positive reference letter and demanding that he disclose personal health information without just cause.

Claimed health treatments: lawsuit

The employer demanded that the man “undertake personal health treatment, although his vaccination status has no rational connection to his job duties, and terminated his employment when he refused to do so”, indicates the court document.

He says that as an employee working entirely from home, Bayer’s request to release personal health information and subsequent dismissal from his job was against Manitoba’s Human Rights Code.

“If this employee is in fact working exclusively from home, it makes the situation even more ridiculous,” Samfiru said.