By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee has moved forward a bill that would amend the Idaho worker’s compensation law to include vaccine-related injuries if an employer mandates a vaccine.
Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, introduced HB 417, saying if an employer mandates a vaccination, they should be held accountable for any vaccine-related injuries.
“This allows these employees to have a fighting chance to get compensated if they’re injured from the mandated vaccination,” Monks told the committee.
The bill applies to all vaccinations, not just COVID-19.
Idaho workers’ compensation is regulated by the Idaho Industrial Commission. If an employee is injured at work, they file a claim through the commission.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, supported the bill.
“This is basic fairness,” Gannon said. “If employers are going to mandate you be vaccinated, then employers should be liable.”
Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genessee, challenged Gannon, saying she was concerned stakeholders did not have enough input. Troy said the bill could impact “every single business” that employs people in Idaho.
“I feel we should slow this down, have a little bit more opportunity to hear from employers and from insurance companies that sell (these plans),” she said.
Later on the House floor, Troy said her concerns had been addressed and she supported the bill.
The bill passed the House with a 67-3 vote Tuesday afternoon. The “no” votes came from Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley.
Brian Whitlock, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Workers’ Compensation, testified at the committee. Whitlock said the committee has already received claims, and made payments, for workers who claimed injury due to the COVID-19 vaccine. At the time of the meeting, he did not know how many claims had been filed related to COVID.
Whitlock told the committee that when a worker files a claim with the commission, it is the burden of the employer, not the employee, to prove that the claim is invalid. The commission did not take a stance on the legislation.
Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, supported the bill. He said his law firm has heard from employees claiming they were injured. If the bill passes, he argued it would make it easier for employees to bring a claim and get legal support.
“In real time, people are getting hurt by this vaccine and calling my office,” Skaug said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines have undergone and continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”
Ultimately, the committee voted to move the bill forward to the House, with a do-pass recommendation.