Dear Texas Employers:
Executive Order GA-40 provides, as a matter of Texas law, that “[n]o entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.” 46 Tex. Reg. 7295, 7296 (Oct. 11, 2021). Governor Abbott put this protection in place because “the Biden Administration (was] bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’s continued recovery from the COVID-19 disaster.” Id. at 7295.
The federal government has sown confusion among employers and employees by issuing a series of COVID-19 vaccine mandates of dubious legality. But the law in Texas is clear on this point: An employer cannot impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on an employee who qualifies for an exemption for religious, personal, or medical reasons.
The federal government has attempted to impose vaccine mandates on certain classes of workers, including federal contractors, healthcare workers, and anyone whose employer has at least a hundred employees. To this point, however, the federal courts have rejected these assertions of federal power. Indeed, all three of these federal vaccine mandates are currently enjoined against enforcement in Texas. See BST Holdings, L.L.C. v. OSHA, 17 F.4th 604 (5th Cir. 2021); Louisiana v. Becerra, No. 3:21-cv-3970 (W.D. La. Nov. 30, 2021); Georgia v. Biden, No. 1:21-cv 163 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 7, 2021).
Employers should not mandate that any Texan receive a COVID-19 vaccine without notifying the employee of the necessary exemptions and processing those exemptions in good faith. Employers can use the attached exemption form to ensure compliance.
It is unlikely that a claimant will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if the work separation was caused by the employee’s failure to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, although each individual case is different. could affect employer contributions to the trust fund and experience ratings when determining yearly tax rates. Information related to unemployment benefits, notices for potential chargebacks, and appeals hearings can be accessed through your Employer Benefit Services portal.
Any employee subjected to a vaccine mandate in violation of Executive Order GA-40 is invited to notify the Texas Workforce Commission at (800) 939-6631 or at email@example.com. Verified tips from employees who have been impacted by employer mandates will be referred to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.
Bryan Daniel, Chairman Commissioner Representing the Public
Julian Alvarez Commissioner Representing Labor
Aaron Demerson Commissioner Representing Employers
cc: Governor Greg Abbott