Former Fox Sports reporter Allison Williams and former producer Beth Faber are both suing ESPN for firing them after their refusal to comply with the sports network’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Both applied for a religious exemption to this mandate, and both were rejected. A joint lawsuit filed by the former employees on Wednesday asserts that ESPN and Disney violated their religious beliefs.
In September 2021, Faber was fired from her role at ESPN after having her religious exemption to the mandate denied. She had been with the company for 31 years.
In October 2021, Williams announced her departure from ESPN after her exemption requests were repeatedly denied. She first applied for an “exemption from vaccination on grounds of disability” since she was soon to undergo in vitro fertilization. After this request was denied, she applied for a religious exemption that was also denied.
According to the lawsuit that was filed in Connecticut, 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 sports reporter, who had already had COVID-19 and recovered from it, also offered to test regularly, wear a mask, and work remotely. Despite all this, ESPN still denied her request and terminated her contract.
In a video posted to Instagram after her separation from the company, Williams announced the news, saying, “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.”
“I’m so morally and ethically not aligned with this,” she continued. “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.”
Williams’ and Faber’s lawsuit alleges that Disney has a “symbiotic relationship with the Defense Department,” stating,
“It is well-known that the Defense Department has exercised direct 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.”
The two women 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.”
Williams now works as a reporter for Fox Sports.