Arkansas Lawmakers Advance Bill to Ban Businesses From Requiring Workers’ Vaccine Status

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
October 8, 2021 Updated: October 8, 2021

Arkansas lawmakers on Thursday advanced a measure that would ban businesses from requiring workers to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status.

In a 22–11 vote, the majority-Republican Senate advanced the legislation that would grant employees and contractors a “right of privacy,” meaning that businesses would not be allowed to demand them to disclose whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

A House panel later endorsed the bill, sending it to the full House for a final vote.

The proposal is among several measures limiting or prohibiting vaccine requirements that have dominated a session that was intended to focus on congressional redistricting. A day earlier, lawmakers sent Gov. Asa Hutchinson a proposal allowing workers to opt out of their employer’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The measures are primarily in response to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which he announced last month, that requires businesses with 100 employees or more to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or ensure weekly testing.

“We’ve got to push back, and this is where it starts,” Republican state Rep. Mary Bentley, a member of the House Public Health Committee, said before the panel endorsed the measure.

If enacted, the proposal would only take effect early next year, as it failed to secure two-thirds of support in the Senate, which is needed for the legislation to be enforced immediately. Without that backing, it would take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.

It isn’t clear whether the Republican governor will sign the measure into law if it reaches his desk, however he has previously expressed concern about other attempts by the legislature to prevent businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated.

The Epoch Times has contacted Hutchinson’s office for comment.

Early on Wednesday, the governor told reporters at a news briefing that he doesn’t “believe in a federal mandate on vaccination,” referring to the president’s recent mandate on companies with 100 workers or more.

“But I also don’t believe in state mandates as well on employers and defining the employer-employee relationship,” he added.

The president said last week that 96 to 98 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the nation can “go back to normal.”

“But one thing is for certain: A quarter of the country can’t go unvaccinated and us not continue to have a problem,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Sept. 27.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.