State Rep. Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity) recently announced his intent to file the Alabama Health Freedom Act, which will prohibit discrimination based on vaccine status.
An identical bill, House Bill 31 (HB31), was introduced in the 2022 legislative session by State Rep. Ritchie Whorton (R-Owens Cross Roads) but went nowhere after facing criticism from then-Speaker Mac McCutcheon.
HB31 came on the heels of concerns over COVID-19 vaccine mandates. People nationwide faced potentially losing their job for refusing to get the vaccine.
The bill defines discrimination as "the discharge, refusal to hire, refusal to promote, demotion, harassment, segregation, or discrimination in matters of compensation or benefits against an employee. This term includes any imposition, requirement, or burden on one class of employees that is not mandated for all other employees."
The bill would apply to all employers in the state — governmental or private — and allow any employee to file a cause of action for punitive damages, injunctive relief or compensatory damages.
"Free business and free market opportunity does not come at the expense of personal liberty," Yarbrough said. "Those things work together. Free market businesses have a legal right to put the time and talents of their employees to work, but they do not own their bodies and consciences. Passing the Alabama Health Freedom Act will protect the personal liberty and health freedom of our citizens."
Health Freedom Alabama, a grassroots organization formed to combat the implementation of vaccine mandates in Alabama, lauded Yarbrough's decision to back the bill.
Yarbrough, one of the many freshman legislators entering the state house, told 1819 News that the issue of vaccine mandates in his district was a motivating factor for his campaign.
"When I was a constituent, and all this COVID mandate and vaccine garbage was going on, HB31 caught my attention," Yarbrough told 1819 News. "Because one of the reasons I decided to run was because we had people in our district who were fired for not getting the vaccine. Nurses, who got COVID in the line of duty, put their lives on the line for 18 months when there was no vaccine, and all of a sudden, even not getting the shot based on their doctor's recommendation, they get fired."
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