Legislators file ‘right to privacy’ bill to allow people to withhold vaccination status from employers, sue if fired

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Thursday, legislators filed a “right to privacy” bill that would allow people to withhold their vaccination status from employers and give the ability to sue if fired for not disclosing that information.

The legislation, SR4, was filed Thursday afternoon by State Sen. Bob Ballinger (R). If passed, it would pave the way for people to sue employers that fire them for not disclosing whether they’ve been vaccinated.

“Whether you’re for vaccination or not, you should be for these people to have the right to decide whether or not they get the vaccination,” Ballinger said.

Ballinger said people in his district have complained of potentially losing their jobs after major companies like Walmart, Tyson and Mercy Hospital announced they’d mandate vaccinations for staff. Ballinger said if this trend continues, unvaccinated citizens could face being in a lower “caste”—essentially unhirable.

“We need to provide some protection for these people who are about to be basically trodden on,” Ballinger said.

Ballinger, who noted he’s received campaign contributions from some of the companies mandating vaccines, said he faces an uphill battle going against business giants like Walmart and Tyson.

“I don’t like making life harder for businesses, but what’s happening is we have ‘Big Business’ that’s turning into a corporate oligarchy,” Ballinger said.

In a statement, Tyson spokesperson Derek Burleson defended the decision to mandate vaccines.

“We don’t comment on pending legislation but can tell you there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our team members. We believe getting vaccinated is the single most effective thing our team members can do to protect themselves, their families, and the communities where we operate.”

Derek Burleson, Tyson spokesperson

“Tyson is requiring it of all their contractors,” Ballinger said. “So, if you do business with Tyson and you deliver goods to a Tyson plant, you also have to be fully vaccinated.”

Ballinger said it’ll take significant effort to get this bill passed and doesn’t know if it’ll happen. Legislators attached a resolution to extend the special session to take up the bill, Ballinger said, but it would require two-thirds of legislators to approve. Since the bill was filed as part of the general session, it’ll likely be taken up when legislators reconvene for redistricting in the fall.

“I think it’s an uphill battle to get it done,” Ballinger said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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