A former scout for the Washington Nationals is suing the Major League Baseball (MLB) team in federal court for firing him in August 2021 when he refused on religious grounds to receive the vaccine for COVID-19, also known as the CCP virus.
Bernard “Benny” Gallo of Carlsbad, California, has said that his constitutional rights were violated by the team and that the vaccination requirement, which didn’t apply to athletes, was discriminatory.
The lawsuit comes after New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, was sued earlier this month by an MLB sports venue worker over his city’s inconsistent enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccination mandate, which compels all employees at private businesses to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as The Epoch Times reported. Adams’s predecessor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, exempted visiting athletes and artists, but in March, Adams extended the exemption to local athletes and artists.
The carveout “is fundamentally unfair, picks winners and losers, is arbitrary and capricious, and constitutes an abuse of discretion,” states the class-action suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by Virginia Alleyne, who says she was fired from the Legends Club inside Yankee Stadium because of the city’s mandate for private employees.
Attorneys for Gallo, who had been the Washington Nationals’ area scout since November 2012, initiated the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The legal complaint in the case, known as Gallo v. Washington Nationals Baseball Club LLC, court file 1:22-cv-01092, was filed on April 20.
Gallo seeks in the lawsuit to have his termination reversed, his employment reinstated, back pay awarded, and “restitution for the malicious deprivation of his rights,” according to the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm representing Gallo that focuses on religious freedoms.
When the team dismissed Gallo, “he not only lost his livelihood and his life’s passion of working as a baseball scout, but also his elected position as Vice President of the Southern California Scouts Association, a distinction awarded him by his industry peers.”
The legal complaint describes Gallo as “a devout Christian, which informs his conduct and outlook at all times, including his demeanor, excellence in his work, and thoughtfulness of others.”
But the team was indifferent to this, and its vaccination policy was enforced “in a manner that was lenient and accommodating to some employees, but needlessly harsh and inflexible as to others,” according to the complaint.
“Even when clearly notified regarding its obligations under civil rights laws to accommodate Mr. Gallo’s religious beliefs and practices, or what Defendant [team] perceived as Mr. Gallo’s disability, Defendant refused to comply with [the] law, or even make an effort to do so,” the complaint reads.
According to Thomas More Society special counsel Charles LiMandri, a partner at LiMandri and Jonna LLP, the Nationals began enforcing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy on Aug. 12, 2021, that required team employees—but not unionized baseball players—to be vaccinated by Aug. 26.
“The dismissal of Mr. Gallo and the denial of his request for a religious exemption is discriminatory and unlawful,” LiMandri said in a statement. “The Nationals continued to employ others—including another scout—who requested, and received, similar accommodations for medical reasons.”
The accommodation Gallo sought “was the same set of practices the Nationals had in place for him for over a year under the COVID-19 pandemic, both before and after vaccines became available,” according to LiMandri.
“Indeed, during 2021, scouts continued to interact virtually and online as they had throughout the pandemic in 2020,” he said. “The Nationals did not, and cannot, show why continuing to do what they had already been doing was an undue hardship. Furthermore, only a few months after Mr. Gallo was denied an accommodation and terminated, the MLB now is no longer even imposing regular COVID-19 testing; opting to test only symptomatic employees.”
The Washington Nationals didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this article.