Legislature considers forcing employers to pay employees who refuse vaccinations

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Arizonans fired from their jobs for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID could end up with the company having to continue to pay them for a year. 

The state House gave preliminary approval Monday to legislation that makes such payments automatic, though it permits either a lump sum or installments. The only way for a firm to escape the financial hit would be to give the worker the job back — but with a “reasonable accommodation” to honor any claim of a religious exemption. 

And HB 2198, which now awaits a roll-call vote, actually would be retroactive, covering any who lost a job as long ago as December. 

Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, said the payment is justified. 

“A lot of folks are in industries possibly that could require this,” he said. 

“They will have a tough time finding employment,” Kaiser continued. “So they will need time to find employment.” 

But Kaiser said it’s also a matter of civil rights. He said state and federal laws both require employers to honor a worker’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” against getting vaccinated. 

“And they’re supposed to provide accommodations to their workers,” Kaiser said. That usually takes the form of some alternate options, like being placed separate from other workers or even working at home. 

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