Inova Health Systems is violating Virginia law by denying “multiple employee requests” for religious and disability exemptions from the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, said state Attorney General Jason S. Miyares in a letter on Friday.
He said his office is reviewing complaints filed by Inova employees who have been denied such exemptions. Inova announced the mandate in July 2021.
Citing “reports from multiple sources” that exemption requests are denied, Mr Miyares told Inova CEO Stephen Jones that denials “result in dismissals and threats of dismissal of medical professionals essentials” in the state.
“These denials appear to be based on an incorrect judgment of individuals’ sincere religious beliefs, a breakdown in the interactive process, and an outright failure to meet reasonable and legally required requests,” Miyares wrote.
He said the state’s human rights law ‘prohibits discrimination in employment based on religion and disability,’ explaining that ‘religion’ includes ‘any outward expression of religious faith’. .
Kristen Barnett, 38, was a supervisor of the registered nursing unit in the pediatric intensive care unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital, one of four supervisors in a staff of 90. She said she was fired on July 5 after being turned down for a religious exemption.
“The Bible says if you feel something is sin and you submit to it, it is sin and God considers it sin,” Ms Barnett, of Aldie, Virginia, said during the interview. a telephone interview. “So getting shot, I think it’s a sin. I don’t feel like I could live with the belief of doing that.
She said: “All I wanted was to be able to be there and do my job, support staff and help care for pediatric patients; I love my work.”
Ms Barnett said she would “probably” work part-time, adding: “I don’t know if I could work for [Inova] after what they did to everyone. They call themselves an inclusive organization, but they are not inclusive if you are a Christian.
On Friday evening, a spokesperson for Inova Health System said the company “strongly believes[s] that the safest environment for our team members and patients is one where everyone is fully immunized. Like Inova’s long-standing requirement that all team members get a flu shot every year, compliance with our vaccination policy is a condition of employment.
Inova said its review process “is in accordance with the law” and less than 1.2% of its 20,000 employees have “parted from the organization due to non-compliance” with the COVID mandate.