Democrat Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed a bill into law on Tuesday that fines companies up to $50,000 for not granting wide exemptions to any COVID-19 vaccine mandate they impose.
Kansas HB 2001 was signed into law by Kelly, a Democrat who despite initially imposing COVID-19 restrictions alongside other Democrats, has recently expressed concern about federal vaccine mandates from the Biden administration as her reelection looms.
The signing came after fraught negotiations in the special session between the Kansas Senate and House, with a number of competing bills combined into one.
“I know there are Kansans who believe this legislation goes too far, and there are others who believe this legislation doesn’t go far enough. But I was elected to lead, and leadership means seeking compromise,” Kelly said in a statement.
“This bill is the result of compromise in action. Now that it is signed, we need to turn our attention towards pressing issues like growing our economy and passing my plan to Axe the Food Tax, so we can put money back into everyday Kansans’ pockets.”
However, despite being labelled as a compromise by Kelly and other Kansas politicians, the bill retains very strong provisions for any worker whose employer institutes a coronavirus vaccine mandate.
The bill provides a wide-ranging exemption to any vaccine mandate, including obvious health exemptions, but also religious exemptions. Crucially, the employer is not permitted to question the sincerity of those requests.
If any employee is fired or faces other punishments due to their exemption, they will be able to make a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. If the employer is found guilty of violating the legislation, they could face a fine of up to $10,000 per violation if their business employees under 100 people, and up to $50,000 if they employee over 100 people. Any fired employee should also be reinstated, with back pay.
The bill also gives protections to anyone who has been fired over refusing a vaccine mandate, granting them access to unemployment benefits if they would otherwise qualify, along with including a provision that would allow them to refuse further employment at a new business that would not respect their exemption.
National File reported on Tuesday that Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden has made a revolutionary immune system test available to his employees with the goal of allowing them to make an “informed decision” about their health. Johnson County, Kansas is the most populous county in Kansas and encompasses much of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area that falls within the borders of Kansas. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office employs 450 law enforcement personnel, and 150 civilian support staff.