MONTGOMERY, Ala. (NWN) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed off on Friday employment protections for workers who claim a religious or health reason for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Republican governor signed into law a day after it was approved by the Alabama Legislature As the GOP-led states turn to lawsuits and laws to fight federal vaccine requirements they call a violation of personal liberty. Ivey also signed a separate bill into law that requires parental consent for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new law says that state employers cannot fire workers for being unvaccinated against COVID-19 if an employee returns a new standardized state form for claiming religious, medical exemptions.
“Ever since the White House planned its horror strategy to try to impose this vaccine on Americans, I called it what it is: a non-American, outrageous overabundance. Alabamians — including people like me , who are pro-vaccine – are against this weaponization of the federal government, which is why we must just fight it any way we know it,” Ivey said in a statement.
In September President Joe Biden announced that contractors doing business with the federal government must have the workforce vaccinated – with no option but to get tested. The Alabama law would also affect companies, such as medical providers, that wanted to independently place vaccination requirements on workers.
The bill was opposed by Alabama’s Business Council, which said it would put federal contractors in a no-win situation. Democrats said Republicans are risking both jobs and public health to score political points.
“Having supported such a bill, I don’t think they can say whether they are pro-business or pro-growth. Hopefully, the business community will remember that House Democrats support their interests,” said House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels of Huntsville.
Under the law, employees would check a box in a new standardized form because they could not vaccinate – such as a religion, certain qualifying medical conditions or a signed recommendation from a health provider. There will be no need to provide proof of reason. An employee deprived of the exemption can appeal to the state labor department.
The new process and job security will automatically expire on May 1, 2023, unless extended by lawmakers.
The law differs from existing law, which allows companies to fire employees at will and specifies that it limits an employer’s ability to terminate an employee for reasons other than the employee’s COVID-19 vaccination status. do not very.
Republicans argued that the federal government already allows exemptions for medical and religious reasons, and lawmakers are trying to provide an easier way for employees to claim those exemptions.
“They’re afraid of losing their jobs for 20 years, very good jobs they’ve had to federal contractors,” said Republican Representative Mike Jones of Andalusia.
Some Democrats said the GOP proposal would create a wide-open portal for people to claim exemption from fraud without a genuinely valid reason.
“You know and I know, everyone, even atheists, will come and say it’s because of their religious beliefs,” said Democratic Rep. Peblin Warren of Tuskegee.
According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Alabama has had at least 15,629 COVID-19 related deaths and has the second highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 in the states.
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