‘General Hospital’ Lawsuit Over COVID Vaccine Mandates Will Go to Court

Two former workers sued ABC in June 2022, accusing the network of religious discrimination

General Hospital ABC
Christine Bartolucci/ABC

ABC is set to head to court over a lawsuit filed by two former “General Hospital” crew members who accuse the network of religious discrimination, saying they were fired for refusing to receive the COVID vaccine.

In an order issued on Tuesday, a Los Angeles judge stated that plaintiffs James and Timothy Wahl — who are father and son — may have “sincerely held” religious beliefs that ABC should have accommodated for by providing them with other options outside of receiving the COVID vaccine, which was initially an ABC-instated requirement for staff members as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The two plaintiffs ran the construction shop and special effects department for the ABC soap opera, and at the time requested to be exempt from the mandate due to their religious background but were denied, the legal document states. James worked for the series for 14 years while his son had been working on the show for 10 years.

ABC argued that the Wahls’ objection to the vaccine policy weren’t related to religious beliefs and thus shouldn’t be protected by the California Constitution and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Nevertheless, the court decided that the pair “raised sufficient facts” that make the case a “triable issue,” and that it will be up to a jury to decide if their beliefs were “genuine.” ABC also stated that the plaintiffs couldn’t be accommodated without “undue hardship.”

The Walhs accused ABC of violating FEHA, stating they endured religious discrimination and were neglected accommodations under FEHA, disability discrimination under FEHA, retaliation under FEHA and wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

The order states plaintiffs “visited the closed set when the cast and crew were present once a day or once every other day,” wore masks when they were on stage and “did their best” to socially distance themselves from cast and crew. In addition, they say they weren’t in close proximity to actors when talent was unmasked and only visited the set “periodically.”

The lawsuit, filed June 15, 2021, in Los Angeles Superior Court, states, “On November 9, 2021, ABC officially denied Plaintiffs’ requests for religious exemptions to the COVID Vaccine Mandate. It gave no reason for its decision, except to say that the company was ‘unable to conclude that you are prevented from receiving the COVID vaccine due to a sincerely-held religious belief, practice or observance.’”

Twenty-five-year “General Hospital” veteran Ingo Rademacher also departed the soap in November 2021 after refusing to get vaccinated and after outcry over a transphobic tweet.

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