Proposed discrimination protections

Published 12:30 pm Saturday, February 12, 2022

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A proposed law seeks to prohibit public employers, schools and numerous other government organizations in Virginia from requiring individuals to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine.

The legislation would allow people to make their own choices, said Del. Timothy V. Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, who introduced the bill.

“It’s extremely important for my worldview that we restore an individual’s liberty interests in making this personal medical decision,” Anderson said.

House Bill 27 forbids state entities and local governments from mandating employees to receive the vaccine. It also says people can’t be discriminated against for not receiving the vaccine when it comes to services, enrollment, membership, or other benefits.

The bill limits what the government can enforce, but private businesses could still force their employees to receive the vaccine, according to Anderson.

For example, the Board of Health and various other regulatory boards cannot enforce anyone to submit to a vaccine for education or employment purposes.

This bill adds onto the already existing employment law where employers are prohibited from discriminating against race, religion, sexual orientation and more.

HB 27 allows parents to decide whether their child should be vaccinated and gives employees the ability to keep their jobs without having to obtain a vaccine, according to Anderson.

Del. Dave A. LaRock, R-Loudoun, presented a similar bill last year but it was ultimately tabled in a House committee.

The government should not mandate the public to receive vaccines, they should motivate them, according to Anderson.

“The best way is to encourage them,” Anderson said. “Let people make their own decisions and ultimately it is that person’s individual decision as to whether or not they choose to be vaccinated or not.”

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s mandate requiring large employers to require workers to be vaccinated or submit weekly negative COVID tests. However, the court said in a separate ruling that health care workers who work at facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid must get the vaccine.

Employment and workplace discrimination lawyer Lisa Bertini said if the bill became a law, there would probably be an “influx of litigation” from employees.

Those who believe they were illegally mandated to receive the vaccines or “felt discriminated against” for not getting vaccinated, may file lawsuits against their employers for previously requiring the vaccines, according to Bertini.

The bill was assigned to the Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee in January. Two other Republican-backed bills that would prevent COVID-19 vaccine requirements were referred to subcommittees in the House and Senate.