Fans of Love During Lockup and Life After Lockup couple Melissa Picariello and Louie Fojut may be surprised to learn they are both single parents. Louie has a son while Melissa has a teenage daughter.
It’s unclear what Louie’s relationship is with his son, but Melissa seems very close to her 17-year-old daughter — as evidenced by numerous photos of the two of them shared by Melissa on social media.
Here is a gallery of photos featuring Melissa and her daughter Isabella posted on Instagram by Melissa in September of 2022:
Melissa sues daughter’s school
While Melissa is struggling to make her relationship work with a felon on parole, she’s also dealing with some other legal issues.
Melissa filed a lawsuit in March of last year after Isabella was denied a nursing internship because she refused to receive a COVID vaccination due to her “sincere religious beliefs.”
According to the lawsuit, Isabella was placed at a senior living and memory care facility owned by Brandywine for the clinical portion of her high school nursing program.
“Ms. Picariello provided Brandywine with a request for religious exemption and accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccination policy,” Melissa’s lawsuit states. “Brandywine informed Ms. Picariello that they had reviewed and denied the request.”
Melissa alleges that Isabella’s denial violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), and as a result of the denial, Isabella “suffered emotional distress, including suffering embarrassment, humiliation, indignity, and other mental anguish.”
Melissa demands “compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs of suit, and such other relief as the Court may deem proper and just.”
The lawsuit names Brandywine and Isabella’s school district as defendants.
Brandywine responds to Melissa’s lawsuit
The senior living facility that denied Isabella’s application for religious exemption to their COVID vaccine requirement offered their response to the lawsuit by filing a notice of their Motion to Dismiss on April 24.
In their response, Brandywine (referred to as their parent company BL Manager LLC and “Defendant BL”) argues the lawsuit has no merit for multiple reasons.
Number One: The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applies to employers and employees and Isabella was not an employee.
Number Two: There is legal precedent allowing businesses like Brandywine to “mandate vaccination of those entering its facility in order to protect its at-risk elderly resident population.”
Number Three: Neither Melissa nor Isabella ever stated what the particular religious belief was that prevented her from getting vaccinated.
Here is the intro summary from the response motion:
Plaintiff claims that Defendant BL discriminated against her daughter, Isabella, based on her religion by failing to accommodate her in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) when she refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine upon being placed at Defendant BL to complete clinical coursework as part of her schooling.
As explained more fully below, Defendant BL could not have violated the LAD because the LAD’s protection against religious discrimination applies to employees only and Defendant BL did not employ Plaintiff’s daughter. She was a student seeking to fulfill clinical requirements for her education.
The defects in Plaintiff’s Complaint do not end there, however. Even supposing Plaintiff’s daughter was a covered employee under the LAD, in the post COVID-19 era, recent case law has clearly outlined Defendant BL’s right, as a private employer, to mandate vaccination of those entering its facility in order to protect its at-risk elderly resident population.
Moreover, because Plaintiff has not invoked a particular religious belief that conflicts with Defendant BL’s vaccination policy, she cannot plausibly argue that Defendant BL committed a religion-based violation of the LAD. For these reasons, this cause of action should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e), with prejudice, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The rest of the motion goes into more detail on each of those points. Here is an excerpt from the argument for dismissal based on the unfounded claim of religious discrimination:
At the outset, although Plaintiff pleads discrimination based on religion, Plaintiff does not invoke a specific religious belief that would render Isabella a member of a designated protected class.
Instead, Plaintiff merely contends that she ‘informed the District of Isabella’s sincere religious beliefs explaining that her beliefs would prevent her from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine’ and ‘provided [Defendant BL] with a request for religious exemption and accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccination policy,’ without specifying her religious belief with which the policy conflicted.
In the absence of this ‘key element, that she was a member of a protected class – whether by her association with a particular religion or with no religion at all . . . plaintiff’s LAD discrimination [is] futile.’
The next court date listed is a case management conference scheduled for June 18.