Fired for refusing flu shot, SC hospital employee eligible for unemployment

05/22/2013 11:56 AM

05/22/2013 9:23 PM

A hospital employee who was fired after she refused to get a flu shot is eligible for unemployment benefits, according to a ruling Wednesday by the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

AnMed Health in Anderson fired Pamela Crowe in 2010 after she refused to get the flu shot required of hospital employees.

Crowe’s 19-year-old daughter Nicole became ill after getting a flu shot in 2001. Her symptoms, including numbness in the chest and trouble breathing, were first diagnosed as Guillain-Barre syndrome and later as multiple sclerosis, according to court documents.

The daughter’s neurologist said the condition could have been related to the flu shot. The daughter died in 2007 from complications related to medicine she took for her condition.

Crowe’s primary care physician told her there could be some genetic basis for the rare flu shot reaction. AnMed’s flu shot policy, based on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allowed for exceptions for employees with severe egg allergies, severe allergies to any component of the vaccine, a past severe reaction to vaccines or a history of Guillain-Barre. AnMed fired Crowe, saying she didn’t meet those exemptions.

Wednesday’s ruling wasn’t over her firing but over whether Crowe qualified for unemployment benefits. She wouldn’t be eligible if fired for cause.

A state Department of Employment and Workforce claims adjuster originally agreed with AnMed that Crowe was fired for cause, but Crowe took that ruling to a DEW appeals panel, which ruled in Crowe's favor. AnMed appealed that decision, which was upheld at the Administrative Law Court level. The Court of Appeals agreed with the Administrative Law Court’s decision, ruling Crowe wasn’t fired for cause. Her refusal to get a flu shot was “reasonable under her circumstances,” the court ruled.

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