Tennessee will not be banning employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Ultimately, the interests of “corporate freedom” are winning out against “individual liberty,” as one lawmaker put it.
On Wednesday, Rep. Rusty Grills, R-Newbern, spiked his own legislation (HB1147), which would have made it illegal in Tennessee to require employees to take the COVID vaccine.
Already under federal law, no employer — even hospitals — can force workers to get the vaccine because it’s only been given “Emergency Use Authorization” by the Food and Drug Administration. But the vaccines will likely receive full approval in the next few years. At that point, employers could make vaccination a requirement to keep a job.
Grills says after talking to members of a House subcommittee, he was shown how his proposal would conflict with the state’s “right-to-work” policies, which give employers broad authority to hire and fire workers.
“There are some counterproductive positions right there that kind of caused me some trouble inside of my soul,” he told the House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee. “I don’t know that this is necessarily the best route to go.”
Across the country, at least 23 states have had similar bills proposed, mostly sponsored by Republicans. And like Tennessee, business and health care groups have opposed the measures. The Tennessee Hospital Association, in particular, has voiced objections.
Indiana’s bill was also halted by its sponsor after facing steep opposition.
“In pursuit of individual liberty and freedom, you sometimes run into conflict with corporate freedom,” Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville said. “Sometimes the freest thing is to not have a rule at all.”
A Tennessee proposal to ban governmental entities from requiring the vaccine is still alive (SB0187), though action was delayed on Wednesday because of similar resistance from hospitals. The state’s 40 public hospitals are concerned that they will be included and are trying to make sure they’re exempt from the legislation.