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As of November 23, 2021, Governor Laura Kelly signed HB 2001, which requires that if an employer requires its employees to be vaccinated, that the employer “shall exempt an employee from such requirement, without punitive action, if the employee submits a written waiver request to the employer.”

The written waiver must present that one of the following reasons for exemption would be to:

“Endanger the life or health of the employee or an individual who resides with the employee, as evidenced by an accompanying written statement signed by a physician or another person who performs acts pursuant to practice agreements, protocols or at the order, direction or delegation of a physician,

-or-

violate sincerely held religious beliefs of the employee, as evidenced by an accompanying written statement signed by the employee. An employer shall grant an exemption requested in accordance with this section based on sincerely held religious beliefs without inquiring into the sincerity of the request.”

Employees can file a complaint if they believe that an employer is not correctly following the exemption process. Pending allegations will result in a state-sanctioned investigation to find that the employee was terminated due to a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. If the investigation finds that the employer improperly mandated their vaccine requirement, the employer can be liable for up to $50,000 in financial penalties.

Regarding unemployment specifically, the state of Kansas has mandated that a claimant will be eligible for unemployment benefits if they are separated from the employer due to vaccination mandates, and the employer has not taken proper vaccine exemption procedures. Any unemployment claims which occurred due to a COVID-19 vaccination issue since September 9, 2021, will be retroactively reviewed, and benefits may be allowed if the employer did not follow proper vaccination exemption processes. The claimant must request their unemployment claim be reviewed in this matter.

 

What does this mean for employers in Kansas?

It is imperative that employers follow proper vaccination exemption policies when implementing COVID-19 vaccination policies to protect all involved parties. Although portions of this legislation are retroactive, it can be concluded that implementing the proposed vaccination exemption procedure now will help employers avoid accrued fees and long-term effects to their unemployment tax rate through retroactive costs.

 


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