Businesses are changing their plans after Governor Reynolds signed a bill expanding religious exemptions on Friday, October 29.
DES MOINES, Iowa – Nov. 1 was the vaccination deadline for employees of two of Iowa’s largest healthcare providers, until a new bill passed by Gov. Kim Reynolds broadens access to religious exemptions for vaccination mandates.
UnityPoint and MercyOne announced in August that all staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and initially said that employees who fail to comply could be terminated.
Now the two have released their new plans.
In a statement to Local 5, UnityPoint Health said unvaccinated staff members will be put on administrative leave – rather than being fired – while the company reconsiders religious exemptions. Meanwhile, MercyOne is extending its vaccination deadline until Nov. 12: employees will need to submit proof of vaccination or apply for an exemption by then.
“[The new law] seems to just say that if there is a religious tenant or a contrary belief then you file the declaration, “said attorney Bruce Stoltze Jr.” It does not appear to have the same requirements as the civil rights law of Iowa.
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The gray area could lead to challenges for the law.
“Business owners with sincere religious beliefs such as love for neighbor who want to ensure they have a safe environment for their employees and for their customers by carrying out immunization mandates, they have the ability to potentially challenge this law, ”attorney Leonard said. Bates explained.
There may also be another source of conflict: federal law.
In September, President Biden signed an executive order requiring all employers with more than 100 employees to implement vaccination mandates.
“President Biden’s executive order provides for the possibility of religious exemptions. That’s a good thing. And the mistake of this Iowa law is to try to make one size fits all,” Bates said.
Another important detail of this law: if an employee is fired from a company for refusing the COVID vaccine without exemption, he will still be entitled to unemployment benefits.