Ohio Wingnut's Terrible Pro-Coronavirus Bill Foiled By Ohio's Terrible Labor Laws!
Things should have changed after the vaccine. In an ideal world, everyone who was able to get the vaccine would have gotten it by now and things would be relatively back to normal. Even though we know that all vaccines don't work for all people, the collective herd immunity would have likely prevented breakthrough cases. We might not even have gone through the Delta surge.
Those of us who are vaccinated know that, and so our patience towards the unvaccinated has worn thin and keeps wearing thinner every day. Increasingly, businesses and employers are deciding that the best way to handle things is to require proof of vaccination to enter their business or work for them. Or at least a recent negative COVID test. Or for the unvaccinated to wear masks and continue to do social distancing. This way, things can be as normal as possible for those who have earned that normalcy.
Now, Republicans in Ohio — or at least this one woman and seven of her more excitable friends — want to put a stop to that. House Bill 248, introduced by Republican Jennifer Gross, would make it illegal for anyone to "discriminate" against the unvaccinated, claiming that "it is the policy of this state that individuals have a right to expect that their personal health choices shall not result in discriminatory treatment."
(1) No person, public official or employee, public agency, state agency, political subdivision, school, child day-care center, nursing home, residential care facility, health care provider, insurer, institution, or employer shall do any of the following:
A) Deny service or access to, segregate, require a vaccine status label for, require disease or immunity testing of, penalize as a result of, or otherwise discriminate against an individual based on their refusal to receive a specific vaccination or series of vaccinations, subscribe to a vaccine or immunity passport or tracking system, or provide proof of vaccination for, immunity to, or testing of a specific contagious or infectious disease or diseases;
This is a long block quote, so just wanted to make sure you noted this bill wouldn't let an employer in Ohio require employees be tested for coronavirus. In nursing homes. (Or anywhere else.)
(b) Provide any disposition, service, financial aid, or benefit to an individual that is different from, or is provided in a different manner than, that provided to other individuals based on the individual's refusal [to get a vaccine]And NO FREE KRISPY KREMES, KRISPY KREME. Because something something "snowflake" something something "participation trophy."
(c) Restrict an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving any disposition, service, financial aid, or benefit provided to other individuals based on the individual's refusal [to get a vaccine
(d) Treat an individual differently from others in determining whether that individual satisfies any admission, enrollment, quota, eligibility, membership, or other requirement or condition that individuals are required to meet in order to be provided any disposition, service, financial aid, or benefit available to other members of the general public.
All of this would make sense if refusal to get a vaccine were an immutable characteristic, but it's not.
Republicans are excited, of course, to finally get to feel like they can get all of the thrilling bonuses that they have long believed victims of actual discrimination enjoy. Unfortunately, their very own laws — laws that have long made things harder for actual victims of discrimination — are coming back to bite them in the ass.
You see, Ohio, like every other state in the union other than Montana, is an at-will-employment state. And businesses want to keep it that way. So now, Gross is unable to secure any support for her bill, because her colleagues don't want to look like they're not pro-business, or risk these statutes being used to protect actual victims of discrimination.
Via Ohio Journal-News:
Business groups lobbied against it, arguing that they should be free to set their own policies and that the bill violates Ohio's at-will employment laws, which allow employers to dismiss workers for any reason.
Gross' HB 248 faced headwinds in the Health Committee, and she said she'd discuss amendments with committee members – but didn't do so, Lipps said. So it never gained enough support to pass out of committee.
Then on Sept. 10, Gross filed a discharge petition, seeing to force a vote in the full House. But she only got seven signatures, Lipps said.
"It takes 50," he said.
Oh, the irony. Republicans have spent years ensuring that we have the least restrictive labor laws in the world, making it as difficult as possible for companies to be held accountable for, well, anything at all, and now it's biting them in the ass. Whoops!
In other countries, the onus is on businesses and employers to do the right thing. They're required to provide "just cause" when they fire someone. In America, we do the opposite. The onus is on the employee to prove that they were fired for a discriminatory reason, which is not easy, and then file a lawsuit against the company, which can take years and be very expensive and time consuming, which is why
so very few discrimination or harassment lawsuits actually go anywhere or actually result in any kind of punitive damages for the employer. Also, federally, it only applies to companies with more than 15 employees. While many states have lower minimums or no minimum at all, you may want to check before you get pregnant to make sure your small business employer can't legally fire you for a discriminatory reason.
Hypothetically, we do things this way because it's supposed to be the fear of these lawsuits that keep businesses and employers honest and non-discriminatory, but we all know it doesn't really work like that. If it did, businesses wouldn't love at-will employment as much as they do. Not that this stops anyone from bitching about the whiny snowflakes who will sue over anything.
If Republicans want businesses to be allowed to fire people because they don't like their socks or because the employer was having a bad day and wanted to take it out on someone or because a new manager wants "their own team" or to be able to fire people for a discriminatory reason while saying it is "no reason," then they don't get to turn around and say "well, except when it's us and we want to be free to spread a contagious disease."
This does not, of course, mean that bad labor laws such as at-will employment are actually good. They're still very bad, and while the more solid labor laws in Europe do make it more difficult for employers to mandate vaccines, that is not the case in all countries with just cause terminations. Canadian employers, for instance, have been mandating vaccines for certain employees. It would be absolutely possible to have reasonable labor laws in this country without putting our lives at risk.
Crappy labor laws, however, come for everyone eventually.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse