The only way to make sense of the firing of Zack Rackovan from his job at Penn State in March 2022 is to understand that the entire system has gone completely off the rails. Penn State fired him after it rejected his religious exemption for the experimental COVID-19 jab. It was an exemption he feels he shouldn’t have had to submit in the first place.
Zackovan believes no one should be mandated to inject an unknown, experimental substance into one’s body, regardless of religious beliefs. Here’s the catch, though. Rackovan had worked in a “fully remote” graphic design job at the “Justice and Safety Institute” at Penn State since 2014. He never came into physical contact with any of his co-workers. Let’s repeat: he never went to the campus. And, by the way, Rackovan says his employment record was “stellar.”
Rackovan contacted UncoverDC to get the word out. There is an “agenda within our higher education system.” That system, says Rackovan, is the “same one that preaches diversity and inclusion but seems to show no tolerance for Christianity and seeks to remove our American liberties and God-given rights.” Rackovan believes the university “pressured and coerced [him] to compromise on [his] Christian beliefs. Penn State,” he says, “Fired him for standing firm against requests that violated [his] religious beliefs as well as [his] Constitutional rights.”
Ironically, Rackovan shared that union educators were given exemptions on campus, and many of those union workers worked on-site. The other irony is that Penn State “rescinded the protocols they used to fire [Rackovan] three days after he was terminated.”
It seems Penn State went well out of its way to make things difficult for Rackovan. The hoops he had to jump over can’t all be written off as typical bureaucratic nonsense. It didn’t seem to matter how valid his requests were or how much of the required documentation he submitted; Rackovan was met with a brick wall everywhere he turned. He has documented the entire history of his dispute with Penn State, as provided to UncoverDC here. After speaking with him, it is hard to imagine that the only agenda here was the safety of others. Get ready; the brick walls are many. Rackovan explains:
“Because of my Christian convictions and general belief in personal bodily autonomy, I refused to submit to the experimental COVID jab and other illogical and illegal requests that my employer implemented as a requirement of employment in the fall of 2021, including masking and weekly testing.
Specifically, for one example, I was required to take a test that stated directly on the label: for research only, not to be used for diagnosis. In order to take the test, I had to first sign an affidavit releasing all of my personal information (name, address, bank account information) to whomever the research facility wanted to sell it to, as well as relinquish my right to sue anyone for anything associated with the tests (which are proven to cause many various medical issues).
Finally, I had to sign off on a statement saying I was not being coerced in any way. I couldn’t, in good faith, sign away my rights and certainly couldn’t validate a bald-faced lie purporting there was no coercion involved in the process; coercion was their entire strategy!”
Rackovan brought his concerns to his supervisor and HR representative. Both told him they “couldn’t speak to his concerns and could not provide me with contact information for anyone who could; they only told me if I wanted to keep my job, I had to comply.”
Then, when Rackovan notified Penn State of his Constitutional right to refuse an EUA product with documentation from the FDA, they said no go, not going to respect that one either. His requests for an explanation were all ignored. Then, he filed his religious exemption. It was conditionally accepted because of his prior exemption for masking and COVID-19 testing. However, once Rackovan stirred the pot on the vaccine mandate, Penn State “came after his masking and testing exemption,” citing policy changes for remote exemptions from Jan. 2022.
Important to note also is the fact that Rackovan refused to be tested because of the rigamarole required to take the test in the first place. He says he was going to have to sign all kinds of paperwork, giving away legal rights he had no interest in giving away. Those included the right to sue if the testing went sideways, the right to give away all his information to a third party, and most egregiously, a box he had to check to indicate he wasn’t being “coerced” to get the test. Well, we can live in that alternate universe where coercion isn’t coercion, but it certainly seems many things look like coercion going on over there at Penn State regarding COVID-19 mandates.
Rackovan submitted an appeal to the Penn State Affirmative Action Office, which was also denied. By law, the university is, according to Rackovan, “required to provide proof of undue hardship when rejecting accommodation requests.” They refused to provide that as well.
Penn State also failed to follow proper termination procedures. The university’s HR78 policy sets out guidelines for dismissal for employees who “fail to maintain an acceptable standard of performance.” However, in Rackovan’s case, the policy did not seem to apply. Nevertheless, Penn State applied it but ignored the proper procedures with their employee. Two Performance Improvement meetings are required prior to termination. Rackovan’s “one and only Performance Improvement meeting was held on March 4, 2022.”
Rackovan was fired in a letter via email on March 18. The emailed termination letter states Rackovan “declined to participate” in a meeting on March 18. However, Rackovan’s side of the story is a bit more nuanced. Rackovan explained, “They had put me on unpaid leave for nearly 30 days. I had lined up other work that day, and they tried to schedule a 10:00 meeting [on March 18] with me at around 9:00 a.m.” the same day.
Perhaps Penn State considered this March 18 meeting their second Performance Improvement meeting. But it wasn’t clear to Rackovan that it was. Either way, the second meeting was scheduled for the day he was fired, not exactly a good-faith attempt at making things work, assuming that might be one of the reasons for two meetings prior to termination.
Adding insult to injury, the following article rescinding the mandating of masks was published by Penn State on the morning of March 21, three days after his termination. It stretches credulity to believe the referenced amended policy on masks hadn’t been in the pipeline before his firing. Nevertheless, Rackovan was fired for a policy that was almost surely in the works the day he was fired.
Rackovan believes his termination was “fast-tracked.” But when he asked why, he got no written response. Additionally, his HR representative did, however, give him a window into the thinking behind it all. The rep, according to Rackovan, “made a direct comparison between my non-compliance and someone stealing company property; she insinuated that what I was doing was so egregious that it was grounds for immediate dismissal.”
PAHRC Rules in Favor of Rackovan on All Counts
An attorney advised Rackovan to submit a complaint to the PAHRC (Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission). The commission sided with Rackovan (Zachary Rackovan vs. The Pennsylvania State University) in every possible category of his submitted complaint. According to the December 30, 2022, PAHRC letter, Penn State erroneously “failed to provide a religious accommodation, discharged him based on religious creed, and discharged him based on retaliation.” Penn State managed to violate just about every possible rightfully requested accommodation. The university failed to treat him equitably concerning his “religious creed,” a protected class by most standards. It failed to acknowledge his good employment record and then behaved in a retaliatory manner.
The PAHRC also submitted in the same letter written “terms of adjustment” and filed a duplicate complaint with the EEOC. PAHRC requested the reinstatement of his job, lost wages, interest on the lost wages, reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, and anti-discrimination training to make Rackovan whole.
Penn State conducted a “conciliation meeting” with Rackovan on January 24, 2023, where he says, “Penn basically laughed at me and refused to admit any wrongdoing or negotiate a settlement.” They asked for “extra time to negotiate before PAHRC passed the case on to a public hearing but were unwilling to negotiate anyway.” Rackovan consulted legal counsel, who recommended he withdraw the possibility of a public hearing so he could ultimately file suit in federal court. Rackovan’s understanding of the advice was a public hearing would supplant the ability to file in federal court. He received a letter from PAHRC on June 20, 2023, notifying him of the failed conciliation. Rackovan is now waiting for proper procedures to be completed by the PAHRC and EEOC to file his lawsuit. He has 90 days to file once those procedures have been completed. He has a GiveSendGo campaign to raise the $7500 he needs to file the initial paperwork in federal court.
Needless to say, Rackovan has heard nothing from Penn State that would be responsive to the PAHRC “terms of adjustment.” He is gainfully employed at a local Christian school teaching art and bible classes. Rackovan says, “God had another plan” for him, and he is extremely happy teaching at the school. However, Rackovan has lost his state pension. He lost his insurance. He lost opportunities to “move up” elsewhere in the “prime of his career.”
Rackovan says he isn’t going to all of this trouble for himself. He shared, “I personally know other people took the shot and are now dealing with different repercussions from it. So it is important to me to bring awareness.” He is appalled at the idea that someone can be fired in America because of an experimental shot or religious beliefs. He also knows that Penn State is not alone in its draconian policies. “It’s not just Penn State. It’s now the government and most of our educational institutions across the country” that are stomping on Constitutional rights. Rackovan continued, “I feel like they should have respected my constitutional right to refuse. I shouldn’t have even been in that position. This was an experimental shot. It was a medical experiment to which I should have just been able to say, ‘No thank you.'”