Business groups to lawmakers: Don’t do it

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A group of business associations including local and state chambers of commerce are urging Tennessee lawmakers not to pass legislation that conflicts with federal guidelines.

“Conflicting mandates will subject employers to potentially crippling litigation costs through new causes of action at both the federal and state levels,” the groups say in the letter. “We respectfully urge you to OPPOSE any proposals that have the potential to damage our state’s accelerating economic recovery or economic development efforts.”

Here’s the full communique:

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly: 

On behalf of the trade associations, businesses, and nonprofit associations listed below representing a variety of industry sectors which include large, medium, and small employers across our great state, we write to you regarding our concerns with legislation to be considered during the Third Extraordinary Session convened on October 27, 2021. The call of the special session notes that some policies and procedures implemented by private and nonprofit businesses and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with a State of Emergency issued in Tennessee on March 12, 2020, will be considered. 

First, we acknowledge that our employees–your constituents–are our most important asset. Many businesses are implementing policies regarding employee vaccination, testing and masks with a view to achieving compliance with either Federal Executive Orders or recently announced Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency standards, which are expected to be released in the near future. Tennessee has a significant number of businesses designated as federal contractors and such businesses must work diligently to follow Executive Orders and/or applicable OSHA guidelines or risk substantial damage to their businesses. In addition, some businesses have made the decision that their workforce requires vaccination because of special risks to their employees or the customers that they serve. Overall, our businesses are working to comply with the federal requirements until such time that the requirements are withdrawn, overturned, or repealed.  

We must express our opposition to any proposed legislation that may conflict with these federal requirements and overly complicate or conflict with employer operations during the pandemic. We oppose any proposals that outright remove the ability of an employer to determine their own vaccination and mask policies. We believe that any legislation of this kind is unnecessary government intrusion into the operation of our businesses. Tennessee’s strong business climate is based on this fundamental principle, including the state’s employment-at-will law. We ask that you not place additional mandates on our employers, thus placing them in an impossible position between federal and state mandates. Conflicting mandates will subject employers to potentially crippling litigation costs through new causes of action at both the federal and state levels. We respectfully urge you to OPPOSE any proposals that have the potential to damage our state’s accelerating economic recovery or economic development efforts.  

In closing, we thank you, as a leader of our exceptional state who has worked to ensure our economy and business climate have excelled above our peer states during this challenging time. We know that you recognize the difficult position that businesses are in and greatly appreciate your commitment to Tennessee’s continued economic growth.  

Sincerely,

American Academy of Pediatrics – Tennessee Chapter 

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Tennessee Chamber

American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee (ACEC Tennessee)

Associated Builders and Contractors- Greater Tennessee Chapter

Blount Partnership

Center for Nonprofit Management

Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Community Health Systems

Discovery, Inc.

Greater Memphis Chamber 

HospitalityTN

Kingsport Chamber 

Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce

Momentum Nonprofit Partners

Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce 

Nashville Biosciences

NFIB

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Tennessee Business Roundtable

Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Tennessee Community Organizations

Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association

Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association

Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association

Tennessee Manufacturers Association 

Tennessee Retail Association

Tennessee Trucking Association

Vanderbilt University Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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