Governor Kelly Signs House Bill 2001 into Law

On November 22, 2021, Governor Kelly signed House Bill 2001 (“HB 2001”) into law. HB 2001 consists of two main components: (1) Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements and Exemptions; (2) and Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits.

Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements and Exemptions 

HB 2001 requires an employer who implements a COVID-19 vaccine requirement to exempt an employee from such requirement, without punitive action, if the employee submits a written waiver request to the employer stating that complying with the requirement would:

  • Endanger the life or health of the employee or an individual residing 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.

Under HB 2001, an employer must grant an exemption requested in accordance with HB 2001 based on sincerely held religious beliefs without inquiring as to the sincerity of the request.

An employee aggrieved by a violation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements and Exemptions component of HB 2001 may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, triggering an investigation. If the Secretary of State’s investigation finds that the employer violated HB 2001, the Attorney General of Kansas must then file action in an appropriate district court to impose civil penalties up to $10,000.00 for employers with fewer than one hundred (100) employees and up to $50,000.00 for employers with one hundred (100) or more employees.

Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits

Employees may be retroactively paid benefits for any week the employee would otherwise have been eligible for such benefits, if the employee was disqualified from receiving such benefits during the period of September 9, 2021, through the effective date of HB 2001, on the grounds that the employee was discharged or suspended for misconduct as the result of the employee’s refusal to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement after the employee requested an exemption or accommodation from such requirement provided by state or federal law and such request was denied.

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