(The Center Square) – Nick Rolovich, former head football coach at Washington State University, has filed a tort claim demanding $25 million in damages as a result of his firing for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine last year. However, the status of the claim or any negotiations over it are unclear.
The 43-year-old was fired in October after refusing to comply with the mandatory vaccination policy for state employees on religious grounds. Rolovich, a Roman Catholic, objected on the grounds that the vaccine was created using cells from aborted fetuses.
Gov. Jay Inslee instituted the vaccine mandate for state employees in August, citing his authority under Washington’s emergency powers law. Inslee had proclaimed a state of emergency on February 21, 2020, due to COVID-19. Washington is one of only13 states that continues to have a COVID-19 related emergency declaration in place.
An appeal to the firing filed by Rolovich’s attorney, Briah Fahling, stated that Rolovich had applied for a religious exemption from the vaccine mandate in September, and that Human Resource Services notified University Athletic Director Patrick Chun the exemption was justified because Rolovich had articulated a “sincerely held religious belief” that prevented him from complying.
The Athletics Department questioned whether Rolovich’s beliefs were sincere because he had stated other reasons for refusing the vaccine before mentioning his religious convictions, Fahling wrote.
The exemption was ultimately denied, as was the appeal of termination.
On April 27, Rolvich filed a tort claim with Washington’s Office of Risk Management, which must be done before filing a lawsuit against the state, according to Brionna Aho, spokesperson for Attorney General Bob Ferguson. If there is no resolution to the claim within 60 days, a lawsuit may be filed.
Aho confirmed that no lawsuit has been filed to date but told The Center Square that the Attorney General’s office would not comment further on the case. She refused to confirm or deny that any negotiations have taken place with Rolovich.
Rolovich was paid about $3.2 million by the university in 2020 and $2.5 million in 2021. His coaching record at WSU was 5-6.
Along with Rolovich, four other WSU football coaches were also fired for refusing the vaccine: Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann and Mark Weber.
A spokesperson for Washington State University told The Center Square that the university does not comment on pending legal action.
The Center Square requested but did not receive comments from Mr. Fahiling.