Iowa gives workers option of seeking exemption from employer-based vaccine mandates

November 19, 2021

Iowa has joined a handful of other U.S. states in limiting the imposition of COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers. Under the new law (SF 902, passed during a fall special session), a business must provide an exemption for workers based on their medical or religious beliefs. In addition, individuals who lose their jobs due to refusal to get the vaccine will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, as of early November, three other states (Arkansas, Texas and West Virginia) had similar opt-out or exemption requirements; a fourth state, Montana, has a blanket ban on COVID-19 mandates by private employers.

As of early November, Midwestern states’ rates of fully vaccinated 18- to 64-year-olds ranged from a high of 69.3 percent in Minnesota to a low of 53.1 percent in North Dakota. (Among this age group, the highest-vaccinated U.S. state was Connecticut, 78.9 percent; the lowest-vaccinated state was West Virginia, 40.3 percent.)

Around the same time that Iowa passed SF 902, lawmakers in Illinois were revising their state’s existing Health Care Right of Conscience Act. The statutory change (SB 1169) stipulates that various entities, including employers, are not in violation of the Right of Conscience Act for any requirements that they impose to “prevent contraction or transmission of COVID-19.”