Reporter sues major US network over vaccine mandate sacking
US sports network ESPN is being sued by former reporter Allison Williams and ex-producer Beth Faber, who have accused the broadcasting giant of dismissing them in 2021 because they refused to comply with a Covid vaccine mandate.
The pair filed a lawsuit in Connecticut on Wednesday, claiming that ESPN and parent company Disney violated their religious beliefs by rejecting requests to allow them a vaccine exemption.
Williams, who now works at Fox Sports as a college football sideline reporter, states that she initially requested the right not to be vaccinated “on grounds of disability” in August 2021 because she was set to undergo in vitro fertilization.
Williams said she was unable to provide a doctor’s letter to back up her application as medical staff were supposedly “threatened” for doing so. That led Williams to apply for a religious exemption, which was rejected before she left ESPN in October of that year.
Williams argued that she hadn’t received a vaccine since the age of 12 after experiencing “an adverse reaction” to a jab, and that her two-year-old daughter was not vaccinated. According to the lawsuit, Williams’ employers at ESPN and Disney made no efforts to accommodate her offers to work remotely, wear a mask and undergo regular tests as a way around the issue.
At the time of her dismissal, the 38-year-old Williams posted an Instagram video in which she stated she was “morally and ethically not aligned” with the policy of her employers on vaccine mandates for staff. Elsewhere, she told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that vaccine mandates were “unAmerican” and “not what takes place in the land of the free.”
After leaving ESPN, Williams welcomed her second child in July of last year and announced in August that she would be joining Fox Sports.
As part of the same lawsuit filed this week, former ESPN producer Faber – who spent almost 31 years at the network before leaving in September 2021 – similarly argued that her rights had been violated after a request for a religious exemption from vaccination was declined.
According to the 83-page lawsuit, Williams and Faber are seeking “compensatory damages, back and front pay, reputational damages, damages for emotional trauma and distress, punitive damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of the action, pre- and post-judgment interest.”
In a further aspect to the case, the lawsuit from Williams and Faber alleges that there is an “intertwined” relationship between Disney and the US Defense Department, and that the latter exercises editorial control over Disney’s content. “That control does not stop at content but extends to direct, indirect and covert encouragement as it pertains to policies and practices, such as vaccination requirements,” it claimed.