Alabama to Block Employers From Firing Unvaccinated Workers Who Seek Exemption

Alabama lawmakers voted to approve a bill that would ban employers from firing staff who refuse to comply with the federal vaccination mandate on medical grounds or because of their religious beliefs. The list of acceptable medical exemptions includes having had COVID in the past year.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the final version of Senate Bill 9 with a 75-27 vote, before it was later approved in the Senate by 23-2 on Thursday.

The bill will now be sent to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who is expected to sign it on Friday.

"Given that the Legislature has been debating proposals all week aimed at sending a strong, powerful message against the overreaching Biden vaccine mandate, the governor will review these bills tomorrow morning [November 5] with the goal of signing them into law tomorrow afternoon," Gina Maiola, communications director for Ivey, told AL.com.

"She has directed her legal staff to begin reviewing these bills as soon as they are transmitted from the Legislature."

The bill is a response to President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate, which states that all federal employees must get the jab. Employers with more than 100 staff must also ensure their employees are vaccinated.

The new legislation states: "This bill would prohibit an employer from terminating an individual for refusing a vaccine if he or she submits a completed exemption form."

Although Biden's mandate allows for religious and medical exemptions, Sen. Chris Elliott, one of the sponsors of the bill, claimed that federal contractors are denying religious exemptions, according to AL.com.

"There were lots of different issues, but the overarching one was being pro-business and being pro-freedom, religious and individual liberty. I think we struck the best possible balance here in the short term," Elliot said, via the Alabama Daily News.

"I understand the business community's concerns because they are looking out for their members. My job is to look out for my constituents and the people of Alabama, not just businesses."

Designed to Protect Workers

State Rep. Mike Jones also said the bill is designed to protect workers by allowing them to fill in a simple form to explain why they should be exempt.

"Protections provided by this section are to be liberally construed in favor of the employee and would go into effect immediately upon passage and signed by the governor," he said, via the Associated Press.

The Business Council of Alabama, the state's most powerful business group, said it opposes the bill, arguing that employers should be able to make their own decisions about their workforce and further legislation merely confuses workers.

"The current vaccine mandate bills moving through the Alabama Legislature cause confusion and place Alabama employers in a no-win position by forcing them to comply with conflicting state and federal laws," the BCA said in a statement.

"This legislation would prevent Alabama employers from making personnel decisions and place that authority in the hands of state government. The BCA has confidence in Alabama's employers and their ability to make sensible decisions that create and sustain jobs."

List of Exemptions

The final draft of the bill lists a number of approved exemptions. These are:

  • My health care provider has recommended to me that I refuse the COVID-19 vaccination based on my current 3 health conditions and medications. (NOTE: You must include a licensed health care provider's signature on this form to claim this exemption).
  • I have previously suffered a severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) related to vaccinations in the past.
  • I have previously suffered a severe allergic reaction related to receiving polyethylene glycol or products 11 containing polyethylene glycol.
  • I have previously suffered a severe allergic reaction related to receiving polysorbate or products containing polysorbate.
  • I have received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of a COVID-19 treatment in the past 90 days.
  • I have a bleeding disorder or am taking a blood thinner.
  • I am severely immunocompromised such that receiving the COVID-19 vaccination creates a risk to my health.
  • I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 12 months.
  • Receiving the COVID-19 vaccination conflicts with my sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances.

Jones was unable to define what a "sincerely held religious belief" was, according to AP.

Gov. Ivey has been contacted for comment.

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A file photo of protesters taking part in a rally against Covid vaccine mandates in Santa Monica, California, on August 29, 2021. Alabama lawmakers have passed a bill allowing employers to claim medical or religious exemptions from a coronavirus vaccine. RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images