Writers Guild of America - Photo courtesy of Alex Millauer on Shutterstock

A former high-level employee of the Writers Guild of America West Inc. is suing the organization, alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2021 for objecting to the guild’s coronavirus vaccination mandate.

Scott Sawyer’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges religious discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, retaliation and age discrimination.

“WGAW failed to engage in any negotiation regarding his religious accommodation request,” the suit alleges. “Instead, WGAW ignored his request, targeted him for termination, harassed him for two months and then fired him shortly after he made the request.”

Sawyer seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Monday. A WGAW representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Sawyer was hired by WGAW as a business representative in June 2000 and was over the age of 40 when he was fired, according to the suit, which does not give his specific age.

WGAW’s legal department has three business representatives who investigate and evaluate WGAW member breach-of-contract claims, prepare and serve settlement demands and litigation pleadings, and work to resolve and settle claims, the suit states.

In April 2021, WGAW Assistant Executive Director Lise Anderson emailed the entire WGAW staff, announcing a policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by June 15 of that year, according to the suit.

Two months later, Sawyer sought a religious exemption regarding WGAW’s mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy, but the organization never did anything more than acknowledge his request, the suit states. Instead, WGAW sent Sawyer a “jolting and disheartening formal disciplinary letter” that surprised him, criticizing his performance on two cases that had been successfully settled to the satisfaction of WGAW’s clients, the suit states.

WGAW has a “longstanding, open, unrestrained animosity towards religion and the religious,” according to the suit, which further states that the organization put Sawyer on a 30-day probationary period.

“At every moment he was left wondering if they were … seeking to fire him and felt that his supervisors were constantly scrutinizing him and trying to create any basis for firing him,” the suit states.

Sawyer’s supervisors harassed him with time-consuming tasks designed to overwhelm him and encourage him to quit as well as to create grounds for firing him, the suit states.

“Despite this harassment, Mr. Sawyer worked beyond WGAW’s regular business hours and stayed up past midnight most nights and sometimes as late as 4 a.m. to complete his work and meet WGAW’s performance goals,” the suit states.

When he was fired last Nov. 11, Sawyer was poised for the settlement of 25 more cases, which would have put him at or near the lead in number of cases closed.

“It is clear that WGAW retaliated and harassed Mr. Sawyer as a result of his religious exemption request,” the suit alleges. “The harassment tactics failed (to) obtain the desired result of Mr. Sawyer voluntarily resigning and failed to cause him to miss his performance goals because Mr. Sawyer doubled his work efforts and stayed up late into the night working.”

Sawyer was at the top of the WGAW pay scale and has been unable to find a comparable job elsewhere, according to the suit, which further states that he has suffered severe emotional and physical distress.

Sawyer also alleges that his firing was partly related to his age.

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