A federal jury has awarded Tanja Benton, a former BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) employee, over $687,000 after she was fired for refusing the company’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement due to her religious beliefs.

The jury determined that Benton’s refusal to take the vaccine stemmed from a “sincerely held religious belief,” awarding her $177,000 in back pay, $10,000 in compensatory damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages, according to WTVC.

Employed at BCBST from 2005 until November 2022, Benton worked primarily as a biostatistical research scientist. Her lawsuit highlighted that her job did not require regular interaction with people, noting she had minimal client contact and never dealt with patients.

Fired for Refusing Vaccine, TN Woman Wins Nearly $700K Settlement
The jury granted Tanja Benton over $177,000 in back pay, $10,000 for compensatory damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages.

During the pandemic, Benton worked remotely for 18 months without any issues until BCBST enforced a vaccine mandate. She refused the vaccine, citing her belief that COVID-19 vaccines are derived from aborted fetus cell lines, which she argued would defile her body and dishonor God.

Despite her request for a religious exemption and her explanation that she did not interact with people at work, BCBST denied her exemption and ultimately terminated her employment.

BCBST defended its decision, stating that the vaccine requirement was essential for the health and safety of its employees and members, including the most vulnerable in the state. They expressed appreciation for Benton’s service during her tenure.