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Texas Prohibits COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for Employers (US)

COVID-19 vaccinations have stirred discussions within workplaces, especially since their widespread availability in late 2020. Initially, some states prohibited government employers from mandating vaccinations for employees, leaving private sector policies to individual employers. Now, this discretionary landscape is evolving, particularly in Texas.

Late last year, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 7 (“SB 7”), signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, effectively prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates in private workplaces. Enacted on February 6, 2024, and codified at Chapter 81D of the Texas Health and Safety Code, the law bars private employers in Texas from enforcing certain COVID-19 vaccine mandates and enables administrative penalties.

Noteworthy provisions in the law include:

  • “An employer may not adopt or enforce a mandate requiring an employee, contractor, applicant for employment, or applicant for a contract position to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment or a contract position.” (Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 81D, Sec 81D.002)
  • Employers found in violation may face a penalty of $50,000 unless steps are taken to mitigate adverse actions.
  • The law defines “adverse action” as any action by an employer that could reasonably be seen as punitive or detrimental to an employee, contractor, or applicant based on vaccination status.

Exceptions exist for Health Care Facilities, Health Care Providers, and Physicians, permitting them to establish reasonable policies regarding the use of protective medical equipment for unvaccinated individuals based on risk levels to patients.

Apart from the $50,000 penalty, the Texas Workforce Commission may seek injunctive relief through the Texas Attorney General against violative employers.

DC Employment Lawyers advise all Texas-based companies and those with employees or contractors in Texas to promptly review and adjust existing vaccine policies in compliance with the new law. Seek legal counsel promptly to ensure full compliance, safeguarding your business and mitigating potential risks associated with non-compliance.

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