House lawmakers on Thursday removed language from a controversial employer vaccine mandates bill that would have allowed fired unvaccinated employees to be eligible for unemployment at the expense of their employer.

House Bill 1001 would put restrictions on employers who require the COVID-19 vaccine for employees by effectively forcing them to accept any medical or religious reason to exemptions without further question.

The bill would have allowed employees who are denied exemptions and fired to be able to draw unemployment at the expense of the employer.

This language was added in last week when the bill was in committee because bill author Rep. Matt  Lehman, R-Berne, had said there was concern that employers would claim that employees who refused to get vaccinated were leaving by choice, making them ineligible for unemployment.

Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, filed the amendment to remove the unemployment language. He said that all employers paid differently into the unemployment 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 language 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 also stripped the bill, but in the opposite way, removing the administrative language. 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 will be up for a vote on the House floor as early as next week.

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