Gov. Inslee, WSU AD dismissed from Nick Rolovich lawsuit

May 31, 2023, 9:28 AM | Updated: 11:36 am

Nick Rolovich lawsuit...

Former Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich was fired as WSU’s coach for failing to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that all state workers be vaccinated for COVID-19. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

A federal judge tossed out parts of a lawsuit involving former Washington State University (WSU) football coach Nick Rolovich, who claimed he was wrongfully terminated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, the judge said that Governor Jay Inslee and WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun have been removed as defendants in the lawsuit.

WSU fired Rolovich in November 2021 for refusing to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.

Ex-WSU Coach Rolovich slams firing over vaccine mandate

Rolovich said his request for a religious exemption as a “devout Catholic,” and his appeal were both denied, so he sued the university and the state for $25 million.

The judge says because Rolovich first mentioned his religious beliefs to WSU on Aug. 19, 2021, Rolovich cannot claim a violation of the free exercise of his religious beliefs prior to that date.

Because he waited so long to try and get a religious exemption, the university said that it was not able to accommodate the coach with pandemic guidelines.

According to the decision obtained by The Spokesman-Review, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled that enforcing vaccine mandates do not count as religious discrimination.

“This Court and many others around the country have consistently found COVID-19 vaccine mandates for state employees are facially neutral and generally applicable, and terminating an employee for failing to comply with a vaccine mandate is a permissible employment action,” Rice wrote in his decision.

There are still three open claims in the lawsuit against WSU, including wage violation, breach of contract, and religious discrimination.

In a statement from Brian Fahling, Rolovich’s lawyer, they said that they agreed to all the dismissed claims except the claim against Chun.

“The remaining claims, breach of contract/breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrongful withholding of wages, Title VII, and WLAD against WSU have, from the beginning, been the very heart of the lawsuit and the damages Mr. Rolovich has suffered will be established through those claims. Nothing has changed,” Fahling said in a statement.

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Gov. Inslee, WSU AD dismissed from Nick Rolovich lawsuit