By Terri Jo Neff |
Employers who mandate COVID-19 vaccinations as a prerequisite to employment or continued employment could be held liable for damages if an employee is denied a religious exemption and then suffers significant injury due to the vaccine, according to legislation introduced Friday by State Rep. Quang Nguyen.
“The reality is COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time,” Nguyen said of his motivation for the bill. “If businesses and employers are intent on mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment, they should be held accountable if their employees face serious harm or illness.”
Some COVID-19 vaccines have been granted liability protection from the federal government, which limits the options for affected individuals who are injured in connection to a vaccination. Current state law only provides for an affected employee to seek recourse via the workers’ compensation system.
Nguyen, a Republican, serves Legislative District 1 which includes Prescott and portions of Yavapai and Maricopa counties. His HB2043 creates a separate pathway for an employee to seek recourse if they are significantly injured due to a mandated vaccine after being denied a religious exemption.
“This is one of the most important bills I’m introducing this coming session,” Nguyen said. “Public and private health mandates are not a good solution and could instead cause harm in some cases.”
According to the current bill language, anaffected employee who prevails in state court could be entitled to at least $500,000 in actual damages. Punitive damages could also be sought in cases where egregious or malicious conduct is alleged.
Another 11 representatives have signed on to HB2043 as co-sponsors.