An Iowa hospital worker fired after refusing a COVID-19 vaccine and asking her employer to pay her $17.2 million in silver coins, in part for her face mask requirement, has received unemployment benefits.
State records indicate that Lori D. Harper worked as a systems analyst for Mercy Medical Center from July 2015 until her termination in October 2021. A month before her termination, Mercy’s president and CEO had sent an email to all employees advising them that they were required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 15, although exemptions for medical or religious reasons were being considered.
On September 19, Harper sent his employer a series of documents by certified mail. In those filings, Harper informed Mercy that she would “conditionally accept” the hospital’s offer “to be injected with COVID-19” if the employer first provided evidence that the vaccine would be “fully recoverable and also removable in its entirety, from my body, my person and my femininity” after each shift.
Failure to do so, Harper said in the documents, would be considered an admission of personal liability for damages resulting from his dismissal. Harper failed to respond to several subsequent requests to meet with management and was ultimately suspended for “unprofessional, insubordinate and unacceptable” conduct.
Management then reiterated a request to meet with Harper and reminded her that she could either get vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption. In response, Harper drafted a “Notice of Liability Regarding Trespass” and a “Schedule of Fees” and paid a bailiff to serve these documents on Mercy’s President and CEO.
The “Schedule of Fees” imposed a $10 million fee on Mercy for “unlawful termination”, a $2 million fee for “each intrusion into my private affairs”, a $2 million fee for “violation of DNA copyright” and a half million dollar fee for “illegal request to wear a face covering” at work. Each fee, Harper said, was to be paid in “convertible silver dollar coins according to the lawful and legal ratio prescribed by law between Federal Reserve Notes and silver dollars.”
A few days later, she billed Mercy for $17,250,000. She was then fired.
At a recent hearing on her jobless claim, Harper presented evidence of the claims she made to Mercy and testified that because she has no legal or medical background, she doesn’t know. if it was even possible for Mercy to have the vaccine medically removed from her body after every shift.
Administrative Law Judge Daniel Zeno ruled that Mercy “may have good reason to terminate Mrs. Harper’s employment”, in part because of her “extravagant fee schedule requiring payment in coins of a silver dollar and the unscientific request that the employer remove the COVID-19 vaccine from his body” after each shift. However, he said, the company did not participate in the hearing and provided no evidence as to why she chose to fire Harper.
“Given that the employer has not established misconduct, as required by law, Ms. Harper is not disqualified for benefits,” Zeno ruled, reversing an earlier decision by an investigator and granting her unemployment. “Ms. Harper was terminated without cause for disqualification.
More unemployment decisions
Other Iowans whose jobless claims have recently gone to a judge include:
Brennen Mefferd, who worked for BTX Iowa, also known as Biotech X-Ray, a mobile diagnostic imaging company that sends X-ray technicians to nursing homes. After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, BTX imposed a vaccination requirement on employees, in part because of the high death rate of nursing home residents infected with COVID-19, but it granted the request. later from Mefferd for a religious exemption.
In August 2021, according to state records, Mefferd was still unvaccinated and contracted COVID-19. After returning to work, he was exempted from the COVID-19 test for 90 days due to his previous infection. When the requirement was reimposed, according to state records, Mefferd refused to submit to testing and screening, saying the chemical used to sterilize the swabs increased her risk of cancer. He was fired and then applied for unemployment benefits.
Administrative Law Judge James E. Timberland recently denied Mefferd’s claim for benefits, saying Mefferd “grasped the idea that the chemical used to sterilize COVID-19 test swabs, ethylene oxide, put him at increased risk of cancer. Ethylene oxide is an FDA approved sterilant. Timberland noted that approximately 50% of all sterile medical devices in the United States are sterilized with ethylene oxide.
Mary Weich, who was fired from REM Iowa Community Services where she worked as a program director responsible for training and supervising home health aides. She was fired after one of REM Iowa’s clients was visited by her guardian who discovered the client had open wounds and dried fecal matter on her body, according to state records.
A subsequent investigation by REM Iowa concluded that there was a general lack of cleanliness with respect to the company’s customers; a lack of available cleaning products; and numerous medication errors. REM Iowa concluded that staff had not been properly trained on how to perform their jobs safely and efficiently. Weich was denied unemployment benefits.
Steve Gentnerwho worked for Cardinal Health, a distributor of pharmaceutical and medical products, until he was fired last October for refusing to follow a company policy requiring him to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Gentner claimed a religious exemption, according to state records, but when his employer asked for documents to support that claim, he provided a letter from the Catholic Church saying it recommended parishioners get vaccinated. As a result, Cardinal Health denied Gentner’s religious exemption request, but Gentner continued to refuse the vaccine.
An administrative law judge concluded that if Gentner’s exemption claim was not supported by actual church advocacy, a new law enacted last fall by the Iowa Legislature and Governor “does not not allow a denial of a vaccine to be the basis for a denial of unemployment benefits.” Gentner received benefits.
Connie Godard, who worked for Mercy Health Services as a licensed practical nurse until last October when she quit her job. In July 2021, Mercy instituted a vaccination policy that required COVID-19 vaccinations for all staff, although exemptions were allowed for religious or medical reasons. Goddard told her supervisor she had no plans to get vaccinated or seek an exemption, according to state records.
In September, Goddard was still working for the hospital due to an extended deadline to comply with vaccine policy. When she arrived at work on the night of September 26, she discovered that she was assigned to the COVID-19 unit, became anxious and concluded that she did not want to risk transmitting the virus to her family. , according to state records. She left work without notifying any of the supervisors and never returned.
She then applied for unemployment benefits. Because her separation from work stemmed from a voluntary resignation through job abandonment, she was denied unemployment benefits.