Great River Health denying vaccine exemptions despite state law, says federal rule supersedes state code

Employees of Great River Medical Center learned late last week their requests for religious and/or medical exemptions to the COVID vaccine mandate had been denied by health system.

The request forms for the exemptions required much more information than state law that passed in October says is needed to receive an exemption.

That law – House File 902 – said a statement that receiving the vaccine would be injurious to the health and well-being of the employee or an individual residing with the employee would grant a medical exemption. No signature from a health care professional is required under the law.

The law also states a statement that receiving the vaccine would conflict with the tenets and practices of a religion of which the employee is an adherent or member would grant a religious exemption.

Under the law, employers must accept and approve the exemptions. If they do not, and in return terminate an employee for being unvaccinated, those terminated employees are eligible for unemployment.

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Great River Medical Center asked the following questions, however:

*Please describe the nature of your objection to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

*Would complying with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement substantially burden your religious exercise? If so, please explain how.

*How long have you held the religious belief underlying your objection?

*If you belong to an organized religion, please indicate which one? (optional)

*Please describe whether, as an adult, you have received any vaccines against any other diseases (such as a full vaccine or a tetanus vaccine) and, if so, what vaccine you most recently received and when, to the best of your recollection.

*If you do not have a religious objection to the use of all vaccines, please explain why your objection is limited to COVID vaccines?

*If there are any other medicines or products that you do not use because of the religious belief underlying your objection, please identify them.

*Please provide any additional information that you think may be helpful in reviewing your request.

Employees who received a denial received a letter stating the Initial Review Committee reviewed the exemption and the request is denied. Employees may appeal their denial to the Appeal Committee, which would conduct a second review of the request and consider any additional information an employee submits.

The denial letter also states:

“As the federal rules supersede any contradictory state law, the Initial Review Committee applied federal standards to your exemption request. Several requests have been denied due to a failure to provide answers to all questions, particularly questions 3 and 4… Question 3 and Question 4 are mandatory.”

Author: Jacob Hall

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