Effective February 6, 2024, a recent Texas law, signed into effect by Governor Greg Abbott through Senate Bill 7, prohibits private employers from implementing or enforcing mandates for COVID-19 vaccination as a prerequisite for employment. This regulation applies to employees, contractors, and job applicants.
Notably, this prohibition does not extend to healthcare facilities, healthcare providers, and physicians, who are granted an exception allowing them to establish policies mandating the use of protective medical equipment for non-vaccinated employees. The carve-out is contingent on the level of risk posed by these individuals due to their regular and direct exposure to patients.
Enforcement of the law falls under the purview of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). In case of violations, the TWC is empowered to impose injunctive relief, administrative penalties, and investigative costs. Administrative penalties can reach $50,000 for each violation unless rectified by hiring the applicant or reinstating the employee or contractor with full back pay and benefits.
Employment Law Firms, specializing in labor and employment matters, strongly advise private employers, in light of this new legislation, to take proactive measures to ensure compliance. This may involve a thorough review and update of existing policies and procedures. Healthcare entities, particularly those falling under the exceptions, should scrutinize their policies related to the use of protective medical equipment for unvaccinated individuals. Assessing the reasonableness of such requirements and ensuring individualized application based on the level of risk to potential patient exposure is recommended. Seeking guidance from reputable Employment Law Firms can be instrumental in navigating the complexities of these regulatory changes.