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Bill Requiring Employers to Compensate Those Fired for Refusing COVID Vaccine Advances in AZ

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An Arizona bill aimed at helping workers who were fired from their job for declining to receive the COVID-19 vaccine passed out of committee on Tuesday and is slated to be voted on by the full state House in coming weeks.

If HB 2198, the Employees Compensation Bill, becomes law, it will require employers to pay former employees severance compensation equaling the employees’ annual salary.

The payment can be made either in one lump sum or in installments over 12 months.

Alternatively, the employer can rehire the former employee in the same position or one similar to the one previously held.

Republican Arizona state Rep. Steve Kaiser, who sponsored the legislation, told KSAZ-TV these workers’ civil rights were violated.

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“Exemptions and accommodations were supposed to be made according to the Civil Rights Act and Arizona’s own attorney general, so it is very disappointing businesses are ignoring individual rights of people and employees and terminating. As a small business owner, I wouldn’t do that,” Kaiser said.

“We need the government to protect these people,” he added.

However, Courtney Coolidge, with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said employers can set conditions of employment.

“Arizona is an at-will state. Private businesses have the right to set policies for the workplace,” she said.

“Workplace environments, as you know, vary significantly and private businesses are in the best position to implement policy that best serve needs of employees and operations,” Coolidge added.

HB 2198 is expected to be voted on by the full House in a few weeks.

If it passes, the legislation would still need to be approved by the Arizona Senate and then signed into law by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.

In December, Ducey renewed an executive order banning state and local governments from issuing vaccine mandates for their employees.

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The Arizona Sun Times reported that Kaiser also sponsored HB 2020 in December that would exempt Arizonans from government or private businesses requiring people who have already had COVID-19 to be vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last month concluding that those who have recovered from COVID-19 have significantly more protection against infection than those who have only been vaccinated.

Researchers reviewed data from California and New York from May to November, when the delta variant became dominant in the U.S.

The study looked at four groups of people: unvaccinated with no prior COVID-19 infection, vaccinated with no prior infection, unvaccinated who recovered from COVID-19 and vaccinated who recovered.

By the first week of October, COVID-19 rates among the vaccinated with no previous infection were 6.2 times lower in California and 4.5 times lower in New York than among the unvaccinated with no previous infection.

However, among the unvaccinated with a previous infection, the COVID-19 rate was 29 times lower in California and 14.7 times lower in New York.

Even more protected were those who had COVID-19 and were also vaccinated. Their infection rate was 32.5 times lower in California and 19.8 times lower in New York.

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