by Mary Stroka
Iowans are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees. In the meantime, they’re moving ahead with actions of their own.
Iowa Department of Education Communications Director Heather Doe told The Center Square in an emailed statement that since Iowa is a state-plan state, the Iowa Division of Labor typically enforces workplace safety in Iowa instead of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The state is required to notify OSHA whether it will adopt a given Emergency Temporary Standard or provide notice it will not adopt it because its standards are as effective as the new federal standard. Iowa needed to respond to the standard by Jan. 7.
Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts did so, saying that the Hawkeye State will not adopt or enforce the mandate.
“As a state plan state, the Iowa Division of Labor is charged with protecting the health and safety of those in the workplace and has the authority to enforce workplace safety and health standards for Iowa businesses,” Roberts said in a statement. “Iowa doesn’t have a standard requiring the Covid-19 vaccine or testing. But after closely reviewing the federal OSHA Vaccine Mandate, Iowa has determined it will not adopt the federal standard. Iowa has concluded that it is not necessary because Iowa’s existing standards are at least as effective as the federal standard change.”
In a news release containing Roberts’ statement, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised Roberts’ decision and reiterated her belief that rejecting such a mandate is a matter of protecting Iowan’s freedoms.
“The Biden Administration continues to ignore the constitutional rights afforded to all Americans, which our country was built on,” she said. “Instead, they’d rather dictate health care decisions and eliminate personal choice, causing our businesses and employees to suffer and exacerbating our workforce shortage.”
With Roberts’ decision, Iowa employers and their employees are not required to comply with the federal OSHA vaccine mandate, the release said.
Iowa Business Council Executive Director Joe Murphy told The Center Square in an emailed statement that Iowa companies are continuing to monitor the situation while they wait for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Iowa companies are striving for consistent policies that provide certainty while additionally allowing for flexibility based on the current situation within each organization,” he said.
The state of Illinois has adopted the mandate. Companies in that state have until Jan. 24 to abide by the mandate’s requirements.
The public comment period for the mandate and whether it should become a final rule is open until Jan. 19. Learn more about commenting here.
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Mary Stroka contributes to The Center Square.