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Postponed: Utah bill proposing exemption on vaccine mandates for employees now in limbo

Posted at 9:26 PM, Nov 09, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would carve exemptions for employees who don't want the COVID-19 vaccine has been postponed after a Utah legislative committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 2004, "workplace COVID-19 amendments," sponsored by state Sen. Kirk Cullimore, made its way to the Senate floor after a Business and Labor Interim Committee hearing and has since been circled.

The bill was introduced in response to the federal employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate and allows employees to claim the medical, religious and personal exemptions already allowed under Utah law.

READ: Court halts Biden vaccine, testing mandate for businesses

“It further says that an employer shall not take adverse action against an employee who takes advantage of one of these exemptions. That means you cannot terminate, you cannot refuse to hire somebody, you cannot demote them," Cullimore said during Tuesday's hearing.

Some members of the committee were concerned with the bill and what it means for the state's federal status with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“In our effort to push back against the federal government, we don’t want to invite actually more federal intrusion in by losing our autonomy and regulating our businesses," Cullimore said.

More than 150 people were signed up to speak on the bill, but due to time constraints, only a few dozen people were able to weigh in.

“What could possibly be more fundamental than preserving the right of anyone to decide what medical procedure and what medical actions are taken on their own body?" said Brent Maxwell, a business owner in Salt Lake County.

“It’s an egregious overstep. This is historical. This has never happened in this country where we are asked or forced to give up our rights to a choice that affects our body," said Amberli Peterson, a supporter of the bill from Salem, Utah. "It’s not fair, it’s not right, and we need to stand up, which is what you’re seeing here.”

Of the large crowd filling the committee room and multiple overflow rooms, only a small amount of people appeared to be prepared to speak against the bill.

“The bill is disgusting," said Joshua Rush with the Utah Democratic Party, who didn't get to speak as he hoped to during the hearing. "The bill is going against the president’s vaccine mandate, which is completely lawful, and I expect to see the fifth circuit’s ruling overturned.”

Ultimately, the bill moved to the Senate floor where it remains in limbo. The sponsor of the bill will continue negotiations with groups and organizations involved.