Reynolds signs vaccine exemption and unemployment benefit bill into law, joins lawsuit against vaccine mandates

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 902 into law on Friday, after its bipartisan passage in the Iowa House and Senate on Thursday.


Grace Smith

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is seen at a groundbreaking ceremony at the North Liberty University of Iowa hospitals and clinics construction site on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Editor

Under a new Iowa law, workers fired for noncompliance with vaccine mandates will be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. The law also defines justifiable medical and religious reasons to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 902 into law on Friday morning. Iowa legislators passed the legislation on Thursday as part of the special session on redistricting. The bill received bipartisan support, passing in the House 67-27 and in the Senate 45-4. 

The bill allows an employee to claim a medical or religious exemption to an employer’s vaccine mandate, and it doesn’t require that a medical exemption be granted or approved by a medical professional.

“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 prepared statement on Friday. “This legislation also gives employees the assurance that they will still receive unemployment benefits despite being fired for standing up for their beliefs.”

Reynolds stated her support for the vaccine as defense against COVID, but said vaccination should be a choice. 

Reynolds also announced on Friday morning that Iowa is joining a federal lawsuit with nine other states to challenge President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for millions of workers. 

“It pits Americans against Americans and it will only worsen the workforce shortage and supply chain issues that hinder our economic recovery,” she said. 

Reynolds said this won’t be the last legal action taken against the administration. When the Biden administration issues it’s OSHA vaccine mandate, they will head to court again, Reynolds said. 

Biden’s vaccine mandate, launched in September, requires all employees of businesses with more than 100 employees to be vaccinated or face regular testing. The action plan also includes vaccine mandates for most federal workers, federal contractors, and for more than 17 million health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid hospitals and health care settings.