Correction: The original version of this story and its headline incorrectly reported that the Indiana House removed a provision in House Bill 1001 that would grant unemployment benefits to workers fired for being unvaccinated against COVID-19. That language remains in the bill. The headline and story have been corrected to accurately reflect the change that was made to the legislation. You can see our corrections at IBJ.com/corrections.
The Indiana House on Thursday removed language from a controversial employer vaccine mandates bill that would have financially punished employers for firing workers because they are unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The provision in House Bill 1001 would have raised unemployment insurance taxes on employers who dumped workers over their vaccine status.
While that language was removed, the legislation still contains a contentious measure that allows workers fired for being unvaccinated to receive unemployment compensation. The bill also continues to propose significant restrictions on employer vaccine mandates by providing worker exemptions for any medical or religious reason.
Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, filed the amendment to remove the financial penalty on employers. He said all employers pay differently into the unemployment compensation system, so he was concerned some would be penalized more than others.
Some employers who lay off or fire employees often already pay the highest rate for unemployment, meaning they might not be penalized with the provision, while others who pay less into the system would, Leonard said.
A few other amendments were brought up on the House floor and were nixed. One by Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, that was voted down would have removed the vaccine mandate restrictions and kept the first half of the bill that would create administrative tools for Gov. Eric Holcomb to end the statewide public health emergency.
Two amendments from the House Republican caucus’ more conservative members were also rejected. One by Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, would have stripped the bill of the administrative tools. Another by Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, would have banned vaccine mandates altogether, prohibited employers from “discriminating” against unvaccinated employees by changing their pay or benefits, requiring regular testing, or prohibiting use of certain areas of the workplace.
HB 1001, authored by Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, will be up for a vote on the House floor as early as next week.