Last Friday, the Nebraska legislature approved a bill requiring employers administering COVID-19 vaccine mandates to recognize medical and religious exemptions requested by workers. The bill has now gone to Republican Governor Pete Ricketts for his signature and final enactment.
The bill passed with a vote of 35-7 and prescribes a standard exemption form published by the state Department of Health and Human Services. Employees will be authorized to use the common form to claim exemption from all employer vaccine mandates in the state. Workers who claim a medical exemption will be required to include a signed statement from a healthcare professional that a vaccination is not advisable for the worker or should be delayed because of a current medical condition.
The law will require employers to grant exemptions when requested adequately through the state form but not cover federal contractors and healthcare facilities receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. Those workers are still covered by federal mandates that have not been successfully challenged.
The law allows employers to require workers to wear personal protective equipment or undergo COVID-19 testing. However, employers must pay the costs associated with PPE or testing.
The new law was opposed by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, the Nebraska Health Care Association, and the Nebraska Medical Association.
The bill was modeled after a Florida law enacted by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis last November that requires employers to recognize a variety of exemptions to vaccination mandates. When he signed the new law, DeSantis said that no Floridian should lose their job because of “heavy-handed COVID mandates.” He added that the state government had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of Florida residents.
Gov. Ricketts signed the bill into law on Monday and said that “sweeping vaccine mandates fail to account for individual medical conditions and religious convictions.” He said that the state government of Nebraska recognizes that even though the federal government does not.