Governor’s Office Directs Agencies to Apply State Law When Complying with Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Federal CMS COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

~~Compliance Ensures Continuation of Federal Funding, Affects Six State Facilities, 11.2% State Employees~~

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today directed affected state agencies to apply Kansas law when complying with the United States Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule requiring staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The directive requires agencies complying with the CMS rule to follow Kansas state laws regarding medical and religious exemptions, documentation, and self-attestation regarding vaccination status.

“I’ve consistently opposed federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements because the responsibility was given to the states from the beginning to make these decisions,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “However, in order to protect the millions of dollars in funding Kansas receives and to prevent Kansans’ tax dollars from going to other states, we must comply with the federal vaccine requirement.

“It’s absolutely critical that any policy implemented in response to the federal ruling must follow our state laws which protect medical and religious exemptions, and prevent intrusive requests from employers,” Governor Kelly said.

In January 2022, the United States Supreme Court upheld the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 vaccine requirement. For nearly all Kansas state employees, there will be no vaccine requirement. 11.2% of state employees work in the state’s six CMS-funded facilities that are subject to the United States Supreme Court ruling.

The Governor’s directive requires that any agency policy implementing the CMS rule should not conflict with provisions of Kansas state law, including but not limited to the 2021 Special Session House Bill 2001 and 2021 Regular Session Senate Bill 159.

The directive requires the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Kansas Commission on Veteran Affairs Office, and any other state agency impacted by the CMS Interim Final rule to affirm state laws when complying with the federal CMS guidance, including but not limited to:

  • Medical exemptions: Facilities must grant an exemption to the federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement if the employee submits a written waiver request stating that complying with the condition would 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.
  • Religious exemptions: Facilities must grant an exemption to the federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement if the employee submits a written waiver request stating that complying with the requirement would violate the religious beliefs of the employee. Facilities can’t inquire into the sincerity of the request.
  • Documentation: Facilities must not require employees to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status. Facilities may request such documentation but must make it clear that providing documentation is not a condition of employment and that no adverse action will be taken if the employee does not provide it.
  • Self-Attestation: Facilities can implement a verbal self-attestation of COVID-19 vaccination status policy from any employee who does not provide documentation and does not request an exemption from the vaccination requirement. The facility, not the individual, will be responsible for documenting the individual’s self-attested vaccination status.

Please find the full directive here.