PA Chamber Government Affairs Director Alex Halper outlined employers’ grave concerns with the impact of proposed legislation on their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The House Labor and Industry Committee convened the hearing last week to discuss H.B. 262, which would allow employees or job applicants to refuse to comply with employer policies related to vaccination and testing, among other provisions.
During his testimony, Halper stated that for the economic crisis to end, the health crisis must end – and the path to getting there is through vaccination.
The PA Chamber has been among a broad-based coalition of groups encouraging vaccination and urging employers to lead the push. These efforts, along with smart policies like temporary liability protections for companies acting responsibly, will go a long way toward getting our state on the path to economic recovery.
For employers struggling through the pandemic who have spent considerable time and resources to comply with health guidelines, the prospect of vaccines potentially provides some relief. House Bill 262 threatens to derail this hope. The bill – which currently awaits consideration by the committee – would prohibit employers from adopting vaccination requirement policies for COVID-19 or any other illness; and couldn’t even allow employers to require employees or job applicants to get tested for COVID-19. It further harms employers by establishing a private right of action with a full three years during which plaintiffs can sue their employer, as well as for punitive damages, treble damages, attorneys’ fees and other legal costs.
The bill would make it difficult for employers to even develop programs to incentivize workers to get their vaccines; and, again, prohibits employer policies on mandatory testing. “House Bill 262 isn’t just about vaccinations,” Halper warned the committee. “If there’s a positive case in the workplace or if someone has symptoms – if the employer requires a test before the employee can return to work, under this bill – they’re getting sued.”
“We oppose this bill for specific reasons but ultimately, we believe it sends the wrong message: hostility to employers desperate for relief; validating unfounded skepticism over vaccinations and public health measures; and a lack of commitment from lawmakers to help Pennsylvania participate in the post-pandemic economic recovery we all hope is approaching,” Halper said.
Halper’s full testimony is available here.