The governor of Texas recently issued an executive order that prevents employers from “compelling” an employee to get vaccinated if the employee objects for certain reasons. The law does not prohibit employers from mandating or encouraging vaccines, but does require that they provide exemptions from their COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees who don’t want the vaccine for the following reasons:
- A reason of personal conscience
- A religious belief
- A medical reason, including prior recovery from COVID-19
- Religious and disability-related exemptions were already required under federal and state law, with certain exceptions.
While employers can’t compel vaccination for those who don’t want the vaccine, they can still require additional safety measures of those individuals, such as masking, social distance, and regular testing.
These new constraints for Texas employers will most likely conflict with the not-yet-released ETS (emergency temporary standard) from OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration), which will require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination for COVID-19. However, the OSHA ETS will almost certainly overrule these restrictions for employers in Texas.
We’re keeping a close eye out for release of the ETS and will send an alert once it’s published.