Kansas AG warns employers who may be violating new religious waiver law


FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 file photo, frozen vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are taken out to thaw, at the MontLegia CHC hospital in Liege, Belgium. Envoys from World Trade Organization member nations are taking up a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines to help developing countries fight the pandemic, an idea backed by the Biden administration but opposed in other wealthy countries with strong pharmaceutical industries. On the table for a two-day meeting of a WTO panel opening Tuesday June 8, 2021, is a revised proposal presented by India and South Africa for a temporary IP waiver on coronavirus vaccines. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt spent the day sending a warning to some employers after a new state law took effect Tuesday.

The law, passed during a special session earlier in the week, prevents employers from asking an employee about religious beliefs when the employee claims a religious waiver from a COVID-19 requirement.

The Kansas Attorney General’s office confirmed that Schmidt spent Wednesday contacting employers he believes may be in violation of the new law. Schmidt advised each employer that they must immediately cease and desist the questioning and grant all employee requests for the religious waivers, no questions asked.

Schmidt also asked all employees to review and update procedures for granting employee waivers.

The AG said he knows of some employers that have required employees who claim a religious waiver to complete detailed questionnaires about their beliefs. Some public employers have established review committees to evaluate the questionnaires and determine if the request for a waiver is sincere.

“In Kansas, an employee’s religious faith may not be put on trial in order to obtain the waiver to which the employee is entitled by law,” Schmidt said.

“It is particularly distressing when a public-sector employer – an agent of the government – sits in judgment of the sincerity of an employee’s religious faith. Under the new law now in effect, that is not only distressing, it is also illegal.”

Employees who feel like they were illegally questioned or denied a religious waiver can file a complaint with the Kansas Department of Labor. Employers who violate the law and doesn’t correct the actions, may be penalized or fined.

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