Kansas State University and the University of Kansas have both reportedly been told by the Attorney General for Kansas they are in violation of a new state law exempting employees from vaccinations on religious or medical grounds.
The Kansas Reflector, a nonprofit online news outlet, says Derek Schmidt forwarded a letter to both university presidents and the Board of Regents president. In that letter, Schmidt reportedly said both universities deployed “intrusive written application materials when evaluating an employee’s request for exemption.” KMAN has also obtained the letter, which appears below.ACFrOgBdrNHdYLUZIXtsOsYL4HI464b8gJM8tLhmauvWUMwgCa9pAqxT1JxGF1IKukjjzPVKlF9Tj16b9EvI5Q5MDNgJQsURfDGZJCEFAqOj5SVwmLqbDFWity6sBJ4=
The GOP-led Kansas Legislature held a special session Nov. 22 and adopted stricter regulations on employers. Gov. Laura Kelly signed the bill into law Nov. 23. Methods used by both schools are said by Schmidt to be in violation of that law. He’s calling on both universities to cease and desist.
Both universities have given employees until Jan. 4 to receive both doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Those who fail would be terminated.
51st District Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego) told KMAN Tuesday he hadn’t seen the letter, but stated the legislation clearly states limitations on employers.
“You will not be allowed to challenge or ask background information on their health. On the religious, now that said you have to accept that. I’m sure that will be challenged at some point. Where that ends up – that will be in the courts before too long,” he said.
State Senator Tom Hawk (D-Manhattan) says he had severe reservations about the bill because of the untenable position it puts businesses and public universities in, between state law and the federal law.
“I don’t want K-State or KU, or any of the regent institutions to lose their federal contracts. That’s a critical part of our funding to keep our university and several thousand people employed in the Manhattan community as well as other parts of the state,” he said.
K-State isn’t commenting on the letter, instead referring questions from the media to the Board of Regents.
Regents President Blake Flanders issued the following statement late Tuesday afternoon:
“Since issuing the initial guidance on federal vaccination requirements for federal contractors, I have been clear that state universities will follow all state laws in implementing these requirements. The factors impacting the federal contracting requirements have been shifting rapidly, particularly with new statutes added in the special session and moving federal deadlines. The Board requires all universities to remain in compliance with all previously existing and new applicable statutes.”
The board has a special 8 a.m. meeting Wednesday, however no agenda for that meeting has been made public. Communications Director Matt Keith tells KMAN the board is planning to recess into an executive session to discuss “personnel matters.”
There is some possibility the Wednesday meeting could be related to the K-State presidential search, since Myers’ retirement is scheduled for later in December. That has not been confirmed by K-State nor the Board of Regents.