Fox Sports reporter Allison Williams is one of two former ESPN employees suing the Worldwide Leader over their termination for refusing to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Williams and former producer Beth Faber filed a joint lawsuit on Wednesday, claiming ESPN and Disney violated their religious beliefs.
In the 83-page complaint, filed in Connecticut, Williams claims she applied for an “exemption from vaccination on grounds of disability” as she was set to undergo in vitro fertilization. She later applied for a religious exemption, which was denied and led to her exit from the company in October 2021.
“[Williams] informed Defendants in writing that she was a Christian and that her sincerely held and heartfelt religious beliefs prohibited her from being vaccinated,” the suit reads.
The 38-year-old says she told an employee relations associate she had not had any vaccinations since “she got a bad reaction to one” at the age of 12, and her 2-year-old daughter was not vaccinated, either.
Despite offering to test regularly and wear a mask, work remotely or in-studio, and claiming she had already had COVID-19 and “had natural immunity,” ESPN denied her exemption request and terminated her contract a week later, according to the suit.
Williams claimed she opted to leave ESPN rather than comply with the vaccine mandate.
“I have been denied my request for accommodation by ESPN and The Walt Disney Company, and effective next week, I will be separated from the company,” Williams said in a video posted to Instagram on Oct. 15, 2021. “I’m so morally and ethically not aligned with this. I’ve had to really dig deep and analyze my values and my morals. Ultimately, I need to put them first. The irony in all this are the same values and principles I hold so dear are what made me a really good employee and probably what helped with the success I’ve been able to have in my career.”
She announced she was joining Fox Sports last August.
Faber, an ESPN employee of 31 years, claims her religious exemption was denied before she was fired in September 2021.
She alleges a HR representative told her, “maybe God has led you to a new career, when God closes a door, he opens another.”
The suit also claims Disney has “a symbiotic relationship with the Defense Department.”
“It is well-known that the Defense Department has exercised direct editorial control over Disney’s content,” the suit reads. “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.”
Faber and Williams seek “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.”