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Illinois and Iowa are taking drastically different approaches to employer vaccine laws

The two states are both creating legislation that sets forth rules on what employees are protected from if they refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — There’s only a river separating Illinois and Iowa in the Quad Cities, but the two states couldn’t be further apart in their regulations of COVID-19. 

Friday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation into effect that further protects employees looking to skip a COVID-19 vaccine.

The bill does not stop employers from firing an employee for refusing a vaccine, but rather provides them options to avoid that, or protect them if it does. Employers must provide a waiver to employees for exemption from the vaccine for things like religious or health reasons.

Local attorney Eric Puryear saying he sees it being a case by case examination if legal action is pursued by anyone.

“I think it comes down to each individual person, what they're willing to pursue,” says Puryear.

If an employee is still fired, they qualify for unemployment benefits in Iowa. However, in Illinois an amendment to a law already signed in Illinois is looking to do the exact opposite.

The Illinois House of Representatives has passed an amendment to the Health Care Right of Conscious Act. It includes language that specifies that employers can fire employees who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Puryear says whether or not the amendment goes through, it is most likely how the law will operate if individuals try to pursue legal action.

“I think that’s probably what we’re going to see Illinois courts do regardless of what happens with the bill,” Puryear said.

The language specifically sites a moral cause as invalid, keeping language vague. Local republican state representative Tony McCombie says she dislikes the vague language included.

“Regardless of if it was religious, or for medical reasons, it is our opinion that they still could take action of detriment to somebody at work,” McCombie said.

For republicans like McCombie, it’s a major concern that government is overstepping its reach.

“To me, this goes back to the other fact of control, completely total control,” McCombie said. “That’s not the purpose of government.”

The amendment in Illinois still has to go through the senate before it can be considered by Governor J.B. Pritzker.

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