CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A invoice to restrict West Virginia employers of their capability to require employees to be vaccinated towards the coronavirus handed the Home of Delegates on Friday.
The proposal, which might enable sure medical and spiritual exemptions to firm COVID-19 vaccine mandates, handed the Republican-led chamber 68-30 with two delegates absent. It stays pending within the Senate.
The invoice covers companies and state authorities businesses. Employers can be barred from penalizing or discriminating towards present or potential workers for pursuing the exemptions.
Gov. Jim Justice added the invoice to the Legislature’s particular session this week.
Justice, a Republican, lifted an earlier indoor masks mandate in June. Whereas he has been adamant that residents get their COVID-19 pictures in a state whose inhabitants has the bottom vaccination charge within the nation, he opposes any new masks or vaccine mandates.
Talking in regards to the invoice at an everyday information convention on the pandemic Friday, Justice mentioned, “I don’t consider that actually and really we should always simply throw our freedoms and our rights in a trash can.”
Dozen of companies, together with hospitals, banks and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, have informed lawmakers they’re strongly against the invoice.
The West Virginia College Well being System, the state’s largest non-public employer, is requiring its greater than 20,000 workers to be absolutely vaccinated towards the coronavirus by Oct. 31. And a Nov. 6 deadline looms for almost 8,000 workers of Charleston Space Medical Heart to supply COVID-19 vaccine documentation.
Underneath the invoice, a health care provider or nurse can present signed documentation that the worker has a bodily situation stopping them from safely receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, or the employee has recovered from COVID-19 and may present they’ve antibodies for the virus. The employee can also current to their employer a notarized certification for a non secular exemption.
“I’m right here as a result of I consider in private selection and private freedom,” mentioned Raleigh County Republican Brandon Steele, chairman of the Home authorities group committee.
Holding his COVID-19 vaccine card, Steele mentioned, “it’s about being free to work your job, to lift your loved ones, and never be topic to any individual strolling as much as you and saying, ‘the place’s your papers?’ That’s not the America I wish to stay in. The America I wish to stay in, I might drop this card proper within the trash.
“And if my employer desires to require one thing, tremendous. You possibly can nonetheless require it. However you’re going to acknowledge these exemptions. They’re official and so they exist.”
Kanawha County Democrat Doug Skaff, who owns a number of companies, mentioned the invoice tells employers tips on how to do their jobs.
“We wish to make this a business-friendly state,” Skaff mentioned. “Get authorities out of the way in which and allow us to run our enterprise. This invoice does the other.”
Many different states are contemplating anti-mandate payments. GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an govt order to ban any entity, together with non-public enterprise, from implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on employees.
Greater than 4,100 folks have died from the virus in West Virginia for the reason that begin of the pandemic. Based on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, West Virginia, Idaho and Wyoming have the bottom proportion of residents who aren’t absolutely vaccinated.