It's been more than a year since Ingo Rademacher (Jasper Jacks) filed a discrimination lawsuit against ABC over his dismissal from General Hospital. Now, there's some movement in the case, with ABC asking a judge to toss out the actor's case. One of the key reasons? ABC says General Hospital was preparing to write out Rademacher's Jax even before the adoption of a COVID vaccination protocol.
First, some background on the situation. In 2021, ABC adopted a workplace policy that required all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Though the policy has never been formally or publicly announced by the network, the existence of the policy became known in late 2021 when actors Steve Burton (Jason Morgan) and Rademacher were let go for failing to adhere to the then-undisclosed policy.
The vaccine mandate does allow for exemptions, including health and religious reasons. Both Burton and Rademacher have claimed that they applied for exemptions but were denied by the network. In a lawsuit filed in December 2021, Rademacher alleged that ABC's questioning of the sincerity of Rademacher's beliefs amounted to religious discrimination. Rademacher also asserted disability discrimination, invasion of privacy, and political retaliation.
"I am entitled to a religious exemption against mandatory vaccination for COVID-19 on the basis of my deeply and sincerely held moral belief that my body is endowed by my creator with natural processes to protect me and that its natural integrity cannot ethically be violated by the administration of artificially created copies of genetic material, foreign to nature and experimental," Rademacher wrote in an October 11, 2021, email to Disney's Human Resources department. Disney is the parent company of ABC.
Burton shared in a November 2021 Instagram post that he applied for both medical and religious exemptions, but both of those were denied.
In a motion for summary judgment filed December 28, 2022, in Los Angeles, ABC's lawyer Steven Marenberg stated that ABC's vaccine policy was the result of "an extensive deliberative process at Disney," which included a process for evaluating religious and medical exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that ABC claims that Rademacher "stonewalled the employee relations department during the review process and refused to give details about his religious views, claiming the questioning was discriminatory and a violation of his civil rights."
"Although Rademacher provided little information to ABC in the interactive process, what limited information he did provide, revealed that his opposition to vaccination was rooted in secular, philosophical/moral beliefs ... to summarize succinctly, at no point did Rademacher mention that his beliefs are based on, related to, or even loosely connected to any religious text or teaching," Marenberg wrote, arguing that Rademacher's objection was more about a lifestyle choice than a religious one.
ABC also tackled the term "vaccine mandate" in its response, stating that the network's vaccine policy "does not force him to consent to vaccination. Rather, the Vaccine Policy conditions Rademacher's continued employment on vaccination. He can choose not to be vaccinated, and work elsewhere. Thus, the 'right' that is burdened by the policy is not Rademacher's 'right to object to compulsory medical treatment' but rather, his 'right' to employment at ABC."
As for Rademacher's claim of invasion of privacy, Marenberg wrote that "Rademacher voluntarily and repeatedly disclosed his vaccination status to others" and on social media prior to asking for an exemption.
Even if Rademacher had provided grounds for an exemption, ABC says that it would not have been possible to provide Rademacher accommodation without significant hardship due to the nature of his job as an actor.
Also in the legal filing, ABC revealed that, while Rademacher was under a three-year contract at GH, the show had the right to cancel that contract every six months provided that Rademacher was given six weeks' notice before that cancellation was exercised. The contract also required Rademacher to comply with ABC's policies.
The ABC filing also claims that in July 2021, General Hospital co-head writer Chris Van Etten was preparing to lay out long-term story plans and identified Jax as one of several characters that could or would be written off the show. "At that time, Jax's role in the ongoing storyline was negligible and Van Etten did not see a role for Jax going forward," the attorney added.
In story around that July/August 2021 period, Jax was involved in about three different plot points: Jax had slept with Britt, Jax and Carly fought over Josslyn's safety after Josslyn had an encounter with mobster Joey Novak, and Jax discovered that Sonny was living as "Mike" in Nixon Falls. The Jax/Britt story quickly went nowhere, Joey was eventually neutralized as a threat, and Jax claimed to be less concerned about Josslyn's safety once Sonny returned to Port Charles.
In November 2021, Jax announced that he was returning to Australia to handle business. In January 2022, Jax's residence was shown as being unlived in. In March 2022, an off-screen Jax divested in Aurora Media due to a "conflict of interest." The last mention of Jax came just last month when Carly shared that she had spoken on the phone to Jax and that he wanted Josslyn to visit him in Australia.
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