HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (AP) -- A New Jersey appeals court says a nurse was unfairly denied unemployment benefits after she was fired for refusing a flu shot.

June Valent was working as a nurse at Hackettstown Community Hospital in 2010 when the company began requiring employees to take the flu vaccine unless they had medical or religious reasons not to. Anyone who refused would be required to wear a mask.

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Valent declined the vaccine. She didn't state a medical or religious exemption, but she agreed to wear a mask.

She was terminated based on her refusal of the vaccine and disqualified for unemployment benefits.

Thursday's appellate ruling concluded that the hospital violated Valent's right to freedom of expression by endorsing the religious-based exemption while denying her secular choice.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.