DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law on Friday a bill to give Iowans the option to refuse employer-mandated COVID vaccines with a health or religious exemption.
The law takes effect immediately.
The House State Government Committee on Thursday took up the issue, which focused on giving Iowans the ability to opt out of vaccine mandates at their work on the same day lamwmakers passed a second version of redistricting maps.
“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."
Here's what the bill, which passed the House 68-27 and the Senate 45-4, does:
- Any business that requires the COVID vaccine must allow waivers for employees if the vaccine could cause injury to a person's health and well-being, and the business must allow a waiver for religious exemptions
- If an employee is fired for not getting the vaccine, the business must make sure the employee is still eligible for unemployment benefits.
The Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), Iowa’s largest employer association with 1,500 members representing 330,000 employees, opposed the bill, saying that it "does not support mandates at both the state and federal level and continues to assert the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate is misguided.
"ABI does not support mandates at both the state and federal level and continues to assert the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate is misguided," the group said in a statement. "However, this legislation the Iowa Legislature approved now puts employers at risk of possibly facing federal penalties of up to $14,000 per violation."