Latest Approach to Vaccines Infringes on Employer Rights, but Passes the House

After months of debate and a lack of consensus over what to do about vaccination-related policies, House Republicans yesterday were finally able to fashion an approach that garnered majority support within their caucus. Once Republicans reached agreement, they moved quickly to incorporate its elements into an unrelated bill, House Bill 218, and bring the bill up for a vote. The floor vote in favor of HB 218 was 58-32, falling largely along party lines, with only two Republicans voting against it.

Unfortunately, HB 218 – like HB 248, HB 435, and other bills that had previously been considered – greatly infringes upon the rights of Ohio’s employers. The Ohio Chamber believes that businesses should be left to manage their workplaces free from unnecessary government interference. That includes allowing them to require COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment, or to require customers or guests to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 prior to entering a private business or receiving any service provided by the business.

While most employers have not opted to do either, they should maintain the ability to set their own workplace policies and the Ohio Chamber believes that market forces more appropriately reward or punish companies for whatever vaccine-related decisions they make. HB 218, however, strips businesses of their freedom to determine the most effective approaches for building and maintaining a healthy workplace.

Specifically, HB 218 does the following:

  • Bans businesses from requesting proof of vaccination status;
  • Prohibit businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if the vaccine has not yet received a biologics license or has not been granted full FDA approval;
  • Forces employers to allow exemptions from any COVID-19 requirement for:
    • Medical contradiction
    • Natural immunity
    • Reasons of personal conscience
    • Religious conviction;
  • Subjects employers who violate these provisions to an employment discrimination action;
  • Prohibits employers from requiring employees to be responsible for the cost of any mandatory COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as testing; and
  • Expands the definition of what is a workers’ compensation injury to include vaccine-related injury if an employer mandated the employee receive the vaccine.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where the Ohio Chamber will continue to make the case for free enterprise and the rights of businesses across Ohio.