By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A bill designed to give workers alternatives to vaccinations required by their employers won introduction for legislative consideration on Tuesday.
Wyoming’s House voted 45-15 to introduce House Bill 32, which would specify that employers who require their workers to get vaccines would have to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot or will not get vaccinations.
The bill is similar to one considered during last year’s special session, but it does a better job of balancing the needs of employers against the needs of their workers, said Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne, chair of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.
“It works on the existing legal concept of reasonable accommodation,” she said. “It’s actually very narrowly crafted. It does balance the rights of business owners and employers with the interests of employees and clients.”
The bill specifies that an employer who requires workers to be immunized for any preventable disease is guilty of discriminatory employment practices unless the immunization is required by federal law or the unimmunized person poses a threat to the employer’s business.
The employer would be required to develop a “reasonable accommodation” to allow an unimmunized worker to continue doing his or her job.
The bill would also require providers of essential public or private services to develop ways to serve those who either cannot or will not get immunizations.
Wilson said the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, which drafted the legislation, specifically made it apply to any preventable disease.
“I’m sure we are all very tired of COVID and would like to never hear about it again,” she said. “We think it would be better if the Legislature actually deals with vaccinations and reasonable accommodations now rather than continue to have special sessions for the disease of the year.”
She added that by taking federal laws into account, the committee eliminated a problem that could surface if state law prohibited an employer from requiring a vaccination but federal law required the vaccination.
The bill moved ahead despite opposition from Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, the House Minority Floor Leader, who argued it is too broad.
“This bill now coves all vaccine mandates,” she said. “Think smallpox and polio. It upends decades, if not a century of well established doctrine.”