Employees at some Arkansas firms may lose their jobs if they do not receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but some politicians are looking for ways to protect them.
Arkansas Republican Senator Kim Hammer believed that it is critical because the federal government has encroached too much into the private sector, on both the employee and employer’s side.
Senator Hammer is criticizing President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees. A Senate committee measure, on the other hand, seeks to combat it. Thus, for those who don’t want to get vaccinated, he’ll present a way forward. Senator Hammer stated that there will now be an established process by which he will be protected to prevent them from being fired, per 5News.
Weekly Negative COVID-19 Test
Employees delivering a weekly negative COVID-19 test or proving to their employers that they have natural COVID antibodies are examples of opt-out solutions. According to Senator Hammer, this would aid those employees who do not wish to be vaccinated to be able to maintain a safe working environment without necessarily having gotten the vaccine.
Should the Terminated Employees Be Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
The Senate committees are also considering mandating the state to provide unemployment compensation to terminated employees, which the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce claims does not apply here.
On the other hand, Randy Zook, president, and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce remarked that unemployment is for folks who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own. Those dismissed for refusing to acquire the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Zook, should not be eligible for unemployment benefits. He further explained that this is an employee refusing to comply with legitimate business needs to protect their coworkers and customers.
Senator Hammer, on the other hand, is pushing to get this bill out of committee and onto the governor’s desk as quickly as possible, claiming that it is the right thing to do and would not cost the state anything. Hence, Senator Hammer stated, “There is no tax increase, and there is built into the unemployment trust fund a buffer that companies pay into right now that would be kind of like a reserve.”
In contrast, Zook believes that this is something that the state should not allow and that the burden of proof is on the employer because they are the ones who pay the unemployment benefits.
Most Mercy Hospital’s personnel have been vaccinated, but a tiny proportion have not and fear suspension. Walmart, Tyson, and Washington Regional are among the companies that are approaching a vaccine deadline for their employees.