DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa’s labor commissioner has submitted notice that Iowa will not adopt or enforce the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for large businesses, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office announced Friday.
The federal vaccine-or-test requirement, which is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, applies to businesses with 100 or more employees. These businesses must require their employees to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit a negative COVID-19 test once a week. The requirement will go into effect on Monday, Jan. 10.
Iowa is a State Plan state, which means it has the ability to write its own workplace rules for private sector and state/local government workers, as long as the rules are at least as effective as the federal OSHA regulations in preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts said the state’s existing standards meet those of the federal regulations, despite not mandating large businesses to require COVID-19 vaccines or tests for their workers.
“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. “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.”
Roberts did not say how Iowa’s State Plan will be as effective as the federal OSHA rules without having a vaccine-or-test requirement for large businesses. A spokesperson for the governor’s office has not responded to WHO 13’s inquiry.
OSHA evaluates State Plans annually to determine if they meet their mandated responsibilities and are operating at least as effectively as the federal regulations. The Biden administration previously threatened to revoke the authority of Arizona, South Carolina and Utah to handle their own workplace safety enforcement because of their refusal to adopt some federal safety measures for workers at health care facilities.
Reynolds, an outspoken opponent of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, applauded Roberts’ decision to not enforce the federal policy.
“We are going to continue to protect the freedoms and liberties of Iowans,” Reynolds said. “The Biden administration continues to ignore the constitutional rights afforded to all Americans, which our country was built on. Instead, they’d rather dictate health care decisions and eliminate personal choice, causing our businesses and employees to suffer and exacerbating our workforce shortage.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement. On Friday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical of the Biden administration’s authority to impose the policy on large employers, The Associated Press reported.