Here’s a potentially worrisome news story from our neighboring state of Iowa. The Iowa Capital Dispatch has a story about an Iowa medical supply worker who is suing his former employer, because the employer refused to accommodate his religious beliefs and required him to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The lawsuit was filed by Brandon S. Hoefer, a Butler County resident. It was filed in state court and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.
Hoefer said he was fired for refusing to comply with a directive from his employer, medical supply company NuCara, to be vaccinated.
Hoefer is using religion as an argument against being vaccinated and bases his lawsuit on civil rights violations. The religion isn’t specified in the news story. Hoefer contends that the vaccine was sinful and that “God will heal me in times of illness.”
He worked for NuCara in sales from 2017 through November of 2021. He was fired for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The lawsuit alleges that Hoefer had “minimal interaction” with nursing home residents. But he had regular, in-person meetings with nursing home employees.
Like many of us during the pandemic, Hoefer did much of his work from home in early 2020. What caused an issue for him was a May 2021 directive from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS issued an interim rule requiring COVID-19 vaccines to be offered to all residents, clients and staff.
Hoefer then raised religious concerns as well as fears of an allergic reaction, as he had had a severe reaction to another type of vaccine. He asked NuCara to provide him with paperwork for a religious and medical exemption.
CMS issued additional directives, first in August 2021 when it required that all staff in Medicaid-certified nursing homes be vaccinated against COVID-19. At that point Hoefer then renewed his request for paperwork to seek an exemption from his employer.
In September 2021, CMS then extended the vaccination requirement to nearly all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified suppliers and providers. That promoted NuCara to announce its intention to require all employees to receive the vaccine.
“The company’s CEO allegedly told Hoefer he would have to be vaccinated in order to keep his job and that NuCara would not be granting any exemptions,” the article stated. Hoefer continued to seek an exemption, citing biblical passages and stating, “personal belief that my body is a sacred temple.” NuCara responded that any accommodations made for him would create an “undue hardship” for the company.
The lawsuit also contends that at no point on did NuCara inquire about Hoefer’s religious beliefs or medical history.
So, readers, what do you think? Should faith be used to not protect public health and safety? Or should federal requirements take precedence? What would have happened had NuCara allowed this exception to the rule?