A Republican lawmaker plans to introduce a bill Thursday to ban private businesses from mandating proof of a COVID-19 vaccination for employees, saying such requirements are “an inherent violation of civil liberties.”
If approved, the bill would also ban the federal government from mandating “vaccine passports” are limit states from doing so.
“They’re not really providing a rational basis for discriminatory activity – they’re busy separating healthy people from other healthy people on the presumption that people without a vaccine are not healthy,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s a violation of civil liberties.”
The bill, dubbed the Vaccine Passport Prevention Act, would “bar the federal government from issuing any form of vaccine passport; ban states from doing the same as a condition of receiving federal funds; and bar businesses connected to interstate commerce from requiring ‘any patron or customer to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination, or post-transmission recovery, as a condition’ of service.”
“They were making the same arguments on civil rights in the ‘60s when they said, well, I don’t have to let anyone stop at my gas station or my hotel or my restaurant, or ride where they choose on the bus – it’s my bus,” Davidson told Fox News. “And we said, ‘No, you have to have some reasonable public accommodation.’”
“The idea that people can’t restore our way of life and reconnect with civil society unless they get a vaccine is an inherent violation of civil liberties,” he said.
The new bill — which would allow individuals to sue a business that mandates a vaccine for employees — goes further than another bill proposed by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), which would just ban the federal government from mandating passports.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, is encouraging businesses to mandate vaccines for employees.
“If a company, a business wants to take steps to keep their workers and their passengers safe, I would think that, from a government perspective, we want to do everything we can to encourage that,” Buttigieg told KDFW-TV on Monday. “And that’s certainly our view at the federal level.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on May 28 that businesses can indeed require that their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 without violating federal law.
But in updated guidance this month, the EEOC said employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who don’t get vaccinated because of religious beliefs, pregnancy, or a disability. The agency also said that other federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and state and local laws may play a factor in what businesses can do.
“Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations. Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers. From an EEO perspective, employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement,” the guidance says.
“The updated technical assistance released today addresses frequently asked questions concerning vaccinations in the employment context,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement. “The EEOC will continue to clarify and update our COVID-19 technical assistance to ensure that we are providing the public with clear, easy to understand, and helpful information.”
The EEOC also said businesses can offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated “as long as the incentives are not coercive.”