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Employee fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccination sues Colorado company

A project manager who was fired by Newmont Mining Corporation when he missed a deadline for getting a COVID-19 vaccination has filed a lawsuit against it for religious discrimination. 

Tavis Rogers, 56, had been on the job seven months when Newmont's management issued a vaccination requirement in November 2021, giving all employees two months to receive the shot. 

Rogers, according to the lawsuit documents, notified the company immediately of his conflict with the order.

"I am a Christian. Complying with this mandate would definitely burden my religious exercise because in my faith, my body does not belong to me," Rogers answered to the company's questionnaire. "I do not make the choices for my body; my Heavenly Father made those choices for me through His Word. ... If you are mandating to me what to place into His Temple, then you are burdening my religious freedom by taking the choice of what goes into my body away from God."

Rogers, according to the lawsuit, asked that he be allowed to continue working remotely instead of getting a vaccination.

Newmont hired Rogers, a 56-year-old licensed engineer, as its Water Treatment Plant Project Director at a $155,000 base salary. He was assigned to work on the Yanacocha Mine in Peru, per the lawsuit. Rogers's prior experience included several mines and water projects in Colorado and Peru, according to a social media profile.


The company's human resources department continued to ask Rogers questions leading up to the January 1, 2022 vaccination deadline. 

But Rogers, according to the lawsuit, considered Newmont's inquiry into his previous vaccination history to be improperly intrusive.

"The Lord Jesus Christ has been extremely clear and consistent in all of His responses to me that He has provided me with an immune system that He Himself designed," Rogers answered in writing. "He does not want my body, His Temple, to be injected with any medical substances that potentially modify His design. Further, the substances in these vaccines are possibly harmful to the body and the extent of that harm is unknown."

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"As a courtesy," Rogers continued, "if you would like to have a better understanding of my faith and religious leader, Jesus Christ, I can provide you a copy of the Holy Bible."

The deadline passed. Newmont's HR protested a week later.

"The objective facts and circumstances, including your own statements and actions, indicate that you have decided not to get the COVID19 vaccine based on your objection to vaccination, your personal choice/preference, and concerns about the vaccine's possible side effects," the company stated, per the lawsuit. "Your position requires travel to Peru, and vaccination is required for travel and to travel to the work locations in Peru. As you know, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and vaccination is a critical health and safety tool to protect the health of Newmont's workforce and the communities in which we work and live."

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In return, Rogers wrote, "God created me with an immune system, and I cannot alter His design."

Newmont, which is headquartered in Denver, terminated Rogers at the end of that January. 

An attorney representing Rogers, Steven Murray of Denver, filed the formal complaint against Newmont in federal court in Denver on November 7. The litigation alleges Newmont violated Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act. It requests a jury trial and seeks an award for all monetary losses (including wages and benefits), compensatory damages for emotional suffering and "loss of enjoyment of life," punitive damages against Newmont, and attorneys fees. 

A Newmont spokesperson provided a statement to CBS News Colorado:

"Newmont does not comment on the specifics of any lawsuit pertaining to our COVID-19 vaccine requirement, other than to state that both our Cripple Creek & Victor mines as well as Newmont Corporation fully complied with the law with respect to the vaccine requirement. We will continue to vigorously defend any challenge to the vaccine requirement, which was critical to protecting the health and safety of our workforce during the pandemic."

Newmont Mining Corporation claims to be the world's leading gold company as well as a producer of copper, silver, zinc and lead.

Both sides are scheduled to appear in court the first week of February 2024. 

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