The bill, House File 902, on Oct. 28 cleared both chambers of the Iowa Legislature in a one-day special session. It states that any business that has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate must waive the requirement for employees who request for medical or religious exemptions. In addition, if an employee is fired for refusing to get the vaccine, the business must make sure the employee is eligible for unemployment benefits.
The bill included an immediate enactment provision and took effect on Oct. 29, when Reynolds signed it into law.
“I am proud to sign this bipartisan piece of legislation today. This is a major step forward in protecting Iowans’ freedoms and their abilities to make healthcare decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families,” Reynolds said in a statement. “This legislation also gives employees the assurance that they will still receive unemployment benefits despite being fired for standing up for their beliefs.”
The new law is Iowa Republican lawmakers’ latest effort to address a potential federal mandate that could require all employees at private businesses with more than 100 employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested every week. As part of his pandemic response strategy, President Joe Biden in September tasked Occupational Safety and Health Administration to craft the private sector mandate, which has yet to be released.
The Biden’s administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers employed by federal contractors is also being challenged in Iowa, as Reynolds leads her state to join a multi-state legal fight against the mandate.
“I’m announcing that the State of Iowa is joining a federal lawsuit to challenge President Biden’s unprecedented use of the government to force every employee of every federal contractor in America, including thousands of Iowans, to take a vaccine against their wishes,” she said in an Oct. 29 press release.
The 10-state coalition now includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
“I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but no one should be forced to choose between making a living or standing up for their personal beliefs,” Reynolds said. “As long as I am governor, the State of Iowa will always stand alongside Iowans and to be sure their freedoms are protected.”