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Arizona attorney general says private businesses can mandate vaccines

In a legal opinion released Friday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said local businesses can require employees, customers to be vaccinated.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2014, file photo, Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich waves to supporters at the Republican election night party in Phoenix. Brnovich said Friday, July 26, 2019, that Arizona is poised to resume executions after a five-year hiatus brought on by an execution that critics said was botched, a subsequent lawsuit challenging the way the state carries out the death penalty, and the difficulty of finding lethal injection drugs. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said local businesses can require their workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine, yet they must accommodate those who can't get vaccinated due to a disability or religious belief. 

In response to legal questions surrounding vaccine mandates, Arizona's top law official has issued an opinion that tells local businesses to not force vaccines upon patrons and employees with legitimate exemptions. 

"They must not discriminate against customers who cannot obtain such a vaccine due to a sincerely-held religious belief," Brnovich wrote.

A business inquiring about someone's vaccine exemption must do it in a manner that is "no broader and no more intrusive than necessary," the opinion states.  

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Public institutions like schools and government agencies cannot impose vaccine mandates, Brnovich said, since existing state law already prohibits them from enforcing vaccines on workers. 

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero announced earlier in August that all the municipal employees in her city will be required to show proof of vaccination by Aug. 24.

The mayor of Arizona's second-largest city remains steadfast in mandating the shot despite Gov. Doug Ducey signing an executive order on Monday to strengthen enforcement against vaccine mandates.

Even private schools are limited in how they can require students to show vaccine documents if their parents object to it, the attorney general concluded.

But Brnovich conceded that private enterprises have the authority to decide whether they want workers and customers to show proof of vaccination. 

"Under federal and state law, private businesses can mandate vaccinations for employees but must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot obtain the COVID-19 vaccine due to a disability or a sincerely held religious belief," he wrote. 

Brnovich additionally opined that airlines cannot require passengers to be vaccinated before boarding an airplane. 

"There is no federal law that allows a domestic airline to require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or refuse transportation of a passenger out of fear he/she might have a communicable disease," the attorney general wrote. 

Brnovich, a Republican, has been the state's attorney general since 2015 and is planning to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate next year. 

He made his personal opinion about vaccine mandates obviously clear in his legal opinion by stating that he prioritizes personal freedoms over government mandates. 

"One such fundamental principle is that individuals should be free, without coercion, to make medical decisions regarding vaccinations that they feel are best for themselves and their families," Brnovich wrote. 

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