COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Issues

  1. Effective February 6, 2024, Senate Bill 7 adds a new Chapter 81D to the Texas Health & Safety Code to prohibit COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees by private employers, including adverse action against individuals who are unvaccinated. In addition to employees, the new law also covers contractors, applicants for employment, and applicants for a contract position, which would include medical and nursing interns.

  2. Minor exceptions to a charge of "adverse action" exist for health care facilities, healthcare providers, and physicians. For example, requiring the wearing of personal protective gear by unvaccinated individuals is not an adverse action by a health care facility, healthcare provider, or physician if it is pursuant to a "reasonable" policy. TWC will consult with the Texas Department of Health Services to determine whether a particular healthcare facility policy is reasonable.

  3. TWC will enforce the new law and adopt rules for such enforcement. A penalty of $50,000 may be imposed if employer fails to take remedial action to make a complaining employee whole. TWC can recover its investigation costs from the employer, regardless of remedial action. TWC could also seek injunctive relief via the Attorney General's Office to enjoin future violations.

  4. The bill does not prohibit any employer from requiring health and safety precautions that are unrelated to a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status.

  5. The latest EEOC guidance on COVID-19 and other vaccination policies is on their website at the following links:

    1. (in particular, questions K.1, K.2, K.5, K.6, and K.11, discussing reasonable accommodation issues).
    2. (question 13 cites the need for reasonable accommodation of medical and religious exemptions).
  6. The laws, regulations, and directives dealing with vaccinations have been known to change based on public health conditions and other causes that themselves often change rapidly and without warning. An employer would be well-advised to seek qualified employment law counsel in the private sector before taking any action that might adversely affect an employee and possibly cause them to file a claim or a lawsuit or otherwise result in an expense to, or compliance problems for, the company.

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