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Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine. File photo.

Nine former employees of Newmont CC&V Mining Corp. filed a lawsuit against the company April 11 in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The suit alleges religious discrimination and retaliation by unlawful termination after the company denied their request to be exempt from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

The nine refused the company mandate to be vaccinated and were terminated.

The lawsuit alleges Newmont forced every employee to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or face termination of employment.

“CC&V is aware of a lawsuit filed in federal court by former CC&V employees,” said Katie Blake, sustainability & external relations manager with the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Co. “We will not comment on the specifics of this lawsuit, other than to state that CC&V fully complied with the law with respect to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement and intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit.”

The nine former employees who filed the lawsuit are Richard Grenfell, his brother Les Grenfell and his daughter, Katalyn Grenfell, Phillip Leck, Jonathan Elliott, Cody Schwab, Gordon Mundell, Austin Morris and Dwayne Johnson.

“These are hard-working people who do labor-intensive work,” said Steven L. Murray, with Murray Law, LLC, in Denver, who represents the nine employees. “These are not officers but laborers.”

Newmont announced the vaccine mandate on Oct. 19, 2021.

After the announcement of the vaccine mandate, each of the nine employees requested a timely, reasonable religious accommodation to the vaccine mandate, states the lawsuit.

Along with the request, the employees explained to Newmont that their bona fide, sincerely held religious beliefs prohibited them from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

The employees assert that Newmont discriminated in the depth of its questions about their religious beliefs and conducted an improperly invasive, discriminatory and retaliatory process in evaluating their accommodation requests.

The employees objected on many occasions to Newmont about its discriminatory questions and examination of their religious faith, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the employees are unaware of Newmont’s granting any religious accommodation or exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine to any Newmont employee.

Newmont terminated each of the nine employees in January 2022.

In the lawsuit, Murray cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employers from engaging in religious discrimination in employment, and from retaliating against employees for engaging in lawfully protected activities, including objecting to their employer in this case, Newmont, about discrimination.

“Title VII’s definition of religion is broad. Employees have the right to seek and receive reasonable accommodations to their religious faith and beliefs, even if the employer disagrees with the nature of their religious faith,” Murray said.

The nine employees request a jury trial and seek back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and other relief.