Minneapolis Fed sued for religious discrimination against unvaccinated officer

Maki, a baptized Catholic, says that receiving the COVID-19 vaccination would violate his religious beliefs. 

Officer Rodney Maki, front, with his attorney, James Dickey, from the Upper Midwest Law Center. (Alpha News)

Rodney Maki, a former law enforcement officer, is suing the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis for religious discrimination after it denied his vaccine accommodation request.

“Because Maki’s sincerely held religious beliefs prevent him from becoming vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, and because the Bank’s Policy was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest, Maki is entitled to relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the lawsuit claims.

Maki, an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis for nearly 24 years prior to his termination, spoke with Alpha News in March, saying, “They said you’ll have a choice, either get the vaccination or you’ll be fired. You’ll be terminated.”

Maki, a baptized Catholic, says that receiving the COVID-19 vaccination would violate his religious beliefs.

“Maki declined to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of his religious conviction that, based on his knowledge of the COVID-19 vaccines and their connection with aborted fetal tissue, to use any of these vaccines would have made him morally complicit in and a beneficiary of abortion,” the lawsuit states.

In June 2021, Maki submitted an accommodation request to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, explaining that its COVID-19 vaccine policy was in conflict with his religious beliefs. In August, the bank agreed to temporarily accommodate his beliefs.

According to the lawsuit, the bank required Maki to mask and practice social distancing, prevented him from eating in the cafeteria with other employees, and barred him from using the fitness facility.

“As with each other restriction imposed on Maki because of his religious views, he fully complied,” the lawsuit maintains.

However, on Dec. 16, 2021, the bank notified Maki that it would no longer be able to accommodate his religious beliefs because of what it claimed was an “undue hardship,” the lawsuit says.

“The Bank refused to engage in any meaningful discussions with Maki about any further accommodations or any other jobs with the Bank that would allow Maki to maintain his employment,” it continues. “Maki offered to change his work shift from his day shift to the night shift, which would put him in contact with far fewer people, but the Bank refused.”

Alpha News reported that court documents illustrate a past case where the bank hired an officer who “requested and was given a religious accommodation,” even “changing schedules and shifts” in order to accommodate his needs.

The lawsuit also notes that the bank did not require any employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination for months after they became available and that it allowed many individuals into the building on a daily basis without vaccinations.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis did not respond to Alpha News’ request for comment regarding the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, a declaration that the bank violated Maki’s religious freedom rights, and the restoration of his former job. Maki was required to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before initiating a lawsuit. In August, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter, giving Maki 90 days to file a complaint.

Maki is being represented by the Upper Midwest Law Center.

“Federal law protects employees against discrimination based on their sincere religious beliefs. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis violated Officer Maki’s rights by forcing him to get the vaccine or be fired, despite his willingness to mask, physically distance himself, and test frequently for COVID-19,” said James Dickey, senior trial counsel for UMLC. “This irrational religious discrimination will not hold up in federal court.”


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.