Iowa employers disagree with potential federal vaccine mandate

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Last week the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for larger businesses.

The mandate would require employers of 100 people or more to have their employees get vaccinated or test weekly for COVID-19. The rule would have taken effect on January 4, 2022. This leaves employers in central Iowa with more than 100 employees bracing for implications that the mandate could have.

“I think the more government regulations in front of employers, in regard to hiring people specifically, puts challenges that are unnecessary,” said Tim Bianco, the CEO of Iowa Spring Manufacturing.

Iowa Spring Manufacturing has 150 employees, so it would have to abide by these guidelines if they passed through the courts. It has been difficult to hire employees as is, so Bianco believes that with these new requirements it could push away some potential workers.

Another issue he had was with the amount of fines that could be issued from OSHA to companies that do not comply with the rules. The fines can range from $13,653 to $136,532, depending on the type of violation.

“Any business regardless of their size, if they were not to comply, they would obviously face a financial hurdle that could be detrimental,” Bianco said.

County governments also fall into the same category as long as they have more than 100 people on staff. Polk County has a vaccine/testing mandate in place that is already similar to the one proposed by the Biden administration. But in Greene County there is not a mandate, and one county attorney said he would rather step down from his job than abide by the ruling.

“If I refuse, I have to expose my county to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines per week, eventually bankrupting my county,” said Thomas Laehn, the Greene County Attorney. “If I am put in that situation, I would have to resign my office.”

Laehn questions the constitutionality of the mandate, as he does not like the precedent of executive action controlling county public health guidelines. He mentioned that if a similar mandate was done on the state level, he would not have a problem with that applying to his county.

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