AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State lawmakers on Monday considered legislation that would prohibit private employers from requiring their employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, making progress toward Gov. Abbott’s call to “protect the freedom of Texans” while inviting criticism from business groups.
Senate Bill 7 would subject employers to a $10,000 fine if they take “adverse action” against an employee, contractor, or applicant who refuses to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The bill passed the Senate last week and was left pending in the House Committee on State Affairs Monday.
“No Texan should lose their right to work. No Texan should be fired because of their refusal for whatever reason — religious, medical, reason of conscience — to get the vaccine,” the bill’s sponsor Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said. “What this bill does is address those situations where employers are actually firing people or telling people you can’t apply here, unless you’re vaccinated.”
Jackie Schlegel told Nexstar her organization, Texans for Medical Freedom, has received thousands of reports from Texans who were subjected to COVID-19 mandates at the risk of their job.
“I do think there are a lot of emergent details on the signs, the safety, the efficacy (of the COVID-19 vaccine), but really what we’re looking at is a question of future boosters,” Schlegel said. “The majority of individuals have either gotten COVID, or they have received their vaccines. And now the question is, are we going to continue to mandate boosters?”
Business groups including the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Business testified against the legislation in the Senate.
Dallas Democrat Rafael Anchia expressed concerns the measure would limit private employers’ ability to protect their employees and respond to future public health threats.
The legislation does not create a private cause of action for employees, but allows them to file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission if they believe they have been punished by their employer for refusing vaccination. The bill then directs the Commission to investigate the employer and allows them to petition the Attorney General to block the employer’s actions.