Employers across the country are telling their workers to take the vaccine or lose their jobs. As federal agencies and businesses move forward with COVID-19 vaccine mandates, workers are questioning what rights they have as individuals.

Under current law, an employee’s rights to challenge vaccine mandates are limited. That is a problem. Neither government nor private employers should have the right to mandate medical procedures, including a vaccine.

I have said many times that every American who wants the vaccine should receive it. The vaccine should be free, and it should be accessible. Because of the work completed under Operation Warp Speed, there are three COVID-19 vaccines widely available throughout the United States. However, the decision to get vaccinated or not is a personal and private medical decision. Workers should have the right to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccination.

That is why I introduced H.R. 4884, the Employee Rights and Freedoms Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Our bill would prohibit employers from forcing vaccine mandates on their employees. This is about individual rights. If passed, our legislation would do four things:

  • Make it unlawful employment practice to require an employee, or an applicant for employment, to undertake a medical procedure, including a vaccine.
  • Establish an exemption from required medical procedures based on an employee or applicant’s firmly held belief.
  • Require employers, in the event of an exemption, to provide reasonable accommodations enabling the employee to continue performing essential functions of their position.
  • Provide aggrieved individuals with a private right of action, to bring a civil suit in an appropriate federal district court of jurisdiction.

While I respect the right of private businesses to set conditions of employment, there must be a careful balance between an employer’s authority and employees’ rights. We are not talking about workplace attire, vacation policy, or office conduct. We are talking about permanent medical decisions and irreversible health procedures. We must draw a line here.

All three vaccines available in the United States are currently authorized for emergency use. They have not received full authorization through the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). That does not mean that the vaccines are not safe and effective. However, the lack of full FDA authorization is a concern for many Americans, and it is legitimate. Ultimately, every individual should make their own decision on the vaccine in consultation with their physician.

I take no issue with private businesses incentivizing or encouraging vaccine uptake. However, there is a stark difference between encouraging and mandating compliance. I support individual freedoms, and I certainly stand against oppression. We all want to defeat COVID-19. We must do that without violating individual rights and with respect to every American’s freedoms. The Employee Rights and Freedoms Act does exactly that. It ensures every American can reach their own decision on the vaccine without being unfairly penalized by their employer.

For the past year and a half, our message has been consistent. We must continue to take this virus seriously while protecting Constitutional freedoms and preventing restrictive mandates. This is still America, and personal freedom still matters.

This editorial was originally published in The Hill. Congressman Clay Higgins represents Louisiana’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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