covid vaccine
Lawmaker Fights Pima County’s Religious Accommodation Denial For COVID Vaccine

January 10, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

Last month, State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) requested Attorney General Mark Brnovich investigate Pima County for denying reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs conflicting with their COVID-19 vaccination requirement. At this point in the investigation, Townsend has requested Pima County employees to file complaints to the civil rights division of the attorney general’s office.

The county requires current and future employees to get vaccinated. However, the county must abide by A.R.S. § 23-206 which requires reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs.

“If an employer receives notice from an employee that the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances prevent the employee from taking the COVID-19 vaccination, the employer shall provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship and more than a de minimus cost to the operation of the employer’s business,” read the statute.

Pima County contended that the law poses an undue hardship. In a statement released Thursday, Townsend asserted that Pima County’s allegations of undue hardship conflicted with their previous two years of mitigations without a vaccine. 

“[T]he County alleges that it cannot provide reasonable accommodations in certain situations due to the hardship it would cause them, even though employers have successfully adjusted to accommodate COVID-19 in the workplace for nearly two years,” stated Townsend. “I am confident the attorney general will continue to investigate, and where appropriate prosecute, instances of personal freedom infringement across Arizona, including in Pima County.

Townsend promised further that she would continue to fight for individuals to make their own medical decisions.

Late last month, Brnovich responded to another request from Townsend concerning another COVID-19 topic: forced quaratines of K-12 students. Brnovich issued an opinion declaring that students had a right to legal counsel in the event that their school required them to quarantine for COVID-19 exposure. 

In September, another one of Townsend’s inquiries to Brnovich on the legality of COVID-19 response measures prompted action from the city of Tucson. After Brnovich opined that the city acted unlawfully when it handed down five days unpaid suspension to unvaccinated employees, the city halted its vaccine mandate.

Within a week, the CDC changed its guidelines to halve the quarantining recommendation from 10 days to five. As AZ Free News reported, the changes came after a request letter to the CDC from Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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