The Democrat governor of Kansas intends to sign a bill that will force businesses that require COVID-19 vaccination to give broad exceptions to workers who don’t want a jab.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in a one-sentence statement late Monday that she will sign the bill “when it reaches my desk.”
Derek Schmidt, the Republican attorney general for the state, also said he would sign it if he were governor.
The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives and state Senate passed House Bill 2001 earlier in the day during a special session. The Senate vote was 24–11 and the House vote was 78–41.
The legislation (pdf) says that any employer who imposes a COVID-19 vaccine requirement must exempt a worker if the worker submits a written waiver request stating that complying with the requirement would endanger the life or health of them or somebody they live with or violate a sincerely held religious belief.
Any workers punished or terminated in violation of the law would be able to file a complaint with state officials, who would be mandated to investigate each complaint and issue an order on each case within 60 calendar days.
An employer who is found to have violated the law would face civil action in a bid to fine them up to $10,000 per violation if they have under 100 employees or up to $50,000 per violation if they have 100 or more employees. The employer would avoid legal action if they reinstate the worker.
Another major component of the bill requires that workers who get laid off due to vaccination requirements get unemployment benefits.
Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican, said the bill will “protect the rights of Kansans who are facing impending deadlines from the Biden administration that would force them to choose between their livelihood and their religious freedom or their livelihood and advice from their own physician.”
The bill prevents President Joe Biden “from forcing businesses into the position of playing God or doctor,” he added.
Masterson appeared to be referring to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates against businesses and federal contractors.
The business one is on hold after a flurry of legal challenges while the deadline for the contractor one was recently pushed back until Jan. 4, 2022.
Biden administration officials have said the mandates are aimed at keeping people safe, though studies show the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in terms of blocking transmission has plummeted in recent months.
Kelly spoke out about the business mandate earlier this month.
Rep. Linda Featherstone, a Democrat, was one of the lawmakers who voted against HB 2001.
“I cannot vote for something that makes hospitals more dangerous for workers and patients, codifies vaccine misinformation, and undermines the financial stability of all medical facilities that receive federal aid,” she said in a statement.