A former Columbia sports radio host is suing his former employer, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was fired in October 2021 for refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the suit filed in federal court.
Tim Hill, who formerly worked for Columbia’s 107.5 WNKT, claims the station’s owner, Cumulus Media, violated his civil rights because Hill claims the COVID-19 vaccine violated his religious beliefs. Hill, who is Roman Catholic, refuses to use vaccines that were developed using cells from an aborted fetus, according to his lawsuit.
Hill made the claims in a lawsuit filed Nov. 28 in U.S. District Court by his attorney David Ashley. He is asking for a jury trial and damages.
Hill began working for WNKT in 2016 and soon became program director and host of “The Early Game” morning show. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, Hill and his colleagues worked from home. Hill produced and broadcast “The Early Game” remotely from his home for 18 months, according to the lawsuit.
In August 2021, Cumulus Media announced a mandatory vaccination policy, requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be fired, the suit adds.
In September 2021, Hill requested a religious accommodation that would except him from the vaccine requirement. The company denied Hill’s request, saying it would be an “undue hardship” to accommodate the exception.
Hill then proposed continuing to work from home, or working in the office masked and enclosed from others, and wearing a face shield.
The suit adds that Cumulus Media could have allowed Hill to routinely test for COVID-19 in lieu of being vaccinated.
On Oct. 11, 2021, Hill was fired from his position at the radio station, the suit claims.
Following his firing, Hill filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Commission took two years to respond the to complaint but found that Hill’s rights were violated, noting that Cumulus Media “subjected (Hill) to a religiously hostile work environment based on religion.”
“Accordingly, there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the statute has occurred,” the EEOC document adds.
Hill is asking for a declaration that his previous employer broke the law. He is also asking for “an award of money damages,” including back pay and damages for emotional distress.
The Vatican encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when the immunization became available.
“When ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” reads a note published by the Vatican in 2020.
“In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed,” the Vatican’s note continued. “Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.”
No COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. contains fetal cells, but fetal cells are often used in the early stages of vaccine development, according to vaccine developers and the FDA.
“Fetal cell lines are grown in a laboratory and were started with cells from elective abortions that occurred several decades ago in the 1970s-80s. They are now thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. None of the COVID-19 vaccines use fetal cells derived from recent abortions,” explains UCLA Health.