South Dakota Governor’s Bill Would Let Workers Sue Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

South Dakota Governor’s Bill Would Let Workers Sue Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 16, 2021. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

South Dakota’s governor has unveiled a legislative proposal that would prevent employers from denying medical and religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, provided certain criteria are met.

The proposed legislation (pdf) says an employee seeking a medical exemption must get a certificate signed by a doctor in South Dakota attesting that the worker “has a medical contraindication or compelling medical reason that advises against the COVID-19 immunization.”

Under the bill, it would be easier to get a religious exemption. A person would merely need to submit a signed statement that says they “dissent and object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds, which includes moral or ethical beliefs or principles but not social, political, or economic philosophies or mere preference.”

Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, also included a carve-out for workers who have recovered from COVID-19, giving them some level of protection against the illness.

Any employee who provides proof of a positive serum antibody test from a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-approved laboratory showing they have antibodies against COVID-19 within 180 days of submitting the exemption doesn’t need to get vaccinated, though they may have to resubmit the form down the road.

Noem, who already banned state agencies from requiring verification of vaccination, is taking aim at private companies who mandate COVID-19 vaccination for their workers.

“The COVID vaccination should be a choice, and we should reject the efforts that we are seeing in other parts of the country to divide us into two classes: vaccinated and unvaccinated,” Noem said in a statement. “Unvaccinated Americans are still Americans. We live in a free country—free to make our own decisions. In South Dakota, we will protect the liberty of our people to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

South Dakota House Speaker Spencer Gosch, a Republican, told The Epoch Times in an email that he hadn’t reviewed the proposal yet.

“There are a lot of bills regarding COVID-19 vaccines,” he wrote.

Ian Fury, a spokesperson with Noem, told The Epoch Times via email that the governor “is optimistic about the legislation’s prospects.”

Republicans, who have generally been opposed to vaccine verification requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, control both legislative chambers in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Democratic Party and South Dakota House Minority Leader Troy Heinert did not respond to requests for comment on the proposal.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
President Joe Biden’s administration attempted to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on all employers with 100 or more workers anywhere in the nation, but the Supreme Court in mid-January blocked the rule, finding it likely exceeded the authority granted by Congress to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.