Bill aims to protect workers from losing their jobs because they’re unvaccinated
By The Star Staff
The House Labor Affairs Committee began public hearings Wednesday on House Bill 795, which would ban an employer from dismissing, suspending or “discriminating” against an employee who is not vaccinated or refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The measure, penned by Dignity Project Rep. Lisie Burgos Muñiz, would create the “Law to Prohibit Discrimination in Employment for the Reason of Refusing to Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19” goes against executive orders issued by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia that establish compulsory vaccination for both public employees and private workers. Employees who refuse to be vaccinated under current law must show a negative COVID-19 test to be able to work around other people.
The bill was supported by members of the religious sector, who decried being discriminated against and even fired from their jobs after deciding not to be vaccinated against the virus. One of those workers was Aileen Pérez López, a licensed social worker who was fired from Inter-American University of Puerto Rico (Inter) in San Germán on July 1 for disobeying the institutional vaccination guideline.
“They invalidated my right to decide and base my decision not to get vaccinated for reasons of freedom of expression and personal convictions, supported by scientific data and due to the stage of experimentation in which the vaccine is,” said Pérez López, who worked on the Inter campus for 12 years as a social worker in the Center for Sustainable Student Support project (CASA Project).
Pérez López said she was not a regular employee at the university, since her contract was renewed annually with the island Department of Education. However, she pointed out that the institution used the expiration of her contract on June 30 as a pretext to fire her because she declined to get vaccinated.
In response to questions from Rep. Domingo Torres García, chairman of the Labor Affairs Committee, Pérez López said she was the only CASA Project employee who decided not to be vaccinated. The other workers continue at their jobs.
“I have been unemployed for a few months due to these discriminatory actions, and the job search has been very difficult,” Pérez López said. “It is a situation that I experienced, but I continue to suffer consequences in being able to get re-employed elsewhere.”