Tampa banker says requested exemption to COVID-19 vax got him fired, but employer pushes back

Anti-vaccine mandate protest sign held by child with american flag
The bank said he abused coworkers and misused client data.

A Tampa banker is suing his former employer, claiming he was fired mere hours after submitting a religious exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

But the bank said even without the exemption, he would’ve been fired anyway.

According to documents filed in Hillsborough County Court, Diego Rubio was fired as a loan executive with GTE Financial, a Tampa-based credit union, on Sept. 15 after working with the company for seven years.

In the suit, Rubio was first vexed by the vaccine policy in July when the company announced a raffle for a free vacation to vaccinated employees. He said the company only allowed employees with medical or religious exemptions to participate after he complained. In a response, GTE denied that allegation.

Then on Sept. 10, GTE announced all employees would need to be vaccinated by Oct. 25 due to a Joe Biden administration mandate. The mandate was pulled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in January, after the Supreme Court ruled the agency overstepped its bounds. Private businesses, however, were still allowed to institute voluntary vaccine mandates.

On Sept. 13, Lori Liburdi, GTE’s human resources executive, told Rubio he would not be able to return to work on Oct. 25 if he did not get vaccinated. Rubio had been working remotely, but GTE said his duties as a loan officer occasionally required in-person meetings with clients. Rubio said he spent days attempting to get information from Liburdi about seeking a religious exemption and received a form on Sept. 15. The suit alleged he was fired three hours after submitting the form.

But GTE has pushed back. 

“Among other things, plaintiff improperly recorded conversations, took documents containing confidential financial information on members, and was abusive to defendant’s personnel,” the suit said. “Plaintiff’s requested accommodation to work remotely, be excused from meeting clients/customers in person and avoid being vaccinated was not due to any sincerely held religious beliefs he may have, but his personal choice.”

GTE argued Rubio would’ve been let go either way because recording conversations with other employees without telling them violates Florida law. The company also said he cursed at one of the organization’s vice presidents.

Rubio’s social media presence doesn’t indicate any positive or negative position on religion, but it does show fierce support for former President Donald Trump and a disdain for Democrats like Biden and Nancy Pelosi. A number of his Facebook posts also lampoon COVID-19 mitigation efforts and the vaccine.

According to the suit, Rubio wants back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees and costs, along with any other interests or damages the court might award.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


  • LetFreedomRing

    February 18, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    Does the vaccine prevent infection? No.
    Does the vaccine prevent spread to others? No. What about natural immunity? Crickets.
    How much money has mainstream media outlets and social media corporations received from vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer? Crickets.
    Great Barrington Declaration? Anyone? Did anyone hear what former Vice president of Pfizer Dr. Michael Yeadon had to say about the mRNA technology in these covid shots? Anyone? Well, it wasn’t good.
    Are vaccine companies liable for adverse reactions to these drugs? Of course not, not since 1986.
    As someone who had covid and it was no worse that the most mild of colds I’ve ever had, I’d say leave it up to the individual if they want the shot. Personal choice.
    And besides, if you have three shots and two masks you are protected, so what does it matter if the person 6 feet away from you (also masked) has the shot or not? Your shot works right?
    Nothing makes sense.

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