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Frequently Asked Legal Questions

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59807 views   |   73   |   Last updated on Nov 21, 2023    COVID-19 Vaccines

There are no current state or federal laws requiring COVID-19 vaccines. Under Texas law, governmental bodies and private employers cannot require COVID-19 vaccines, although federal guidance allows private businesses to require vaccines for their workers.

Can the government require me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Texas law prevents state and local governments from issuing vaccine mandates. The restrictions can be found in Section 81B.003 to the Texas Health & Safety Code. The law went into effect September 1st, 2023.

The law contains an exception referencing a rule adopted by the federal government in 2021. This rule required healthcare staff at most Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. In August 2023, a new rule removed vaccine requirements for these workers.

There are no federal vaccine laws or orders that would require a person to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier in the pandemic, several executive orders required COVID-19 vaccinations for certain groups. These were all either revoked or blocked by the courts

Can my employer require me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

A new Texas law bars private employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. These restrictions are in Senate Bill 7, which adds Chapter 81D to the Texas Health & Safety Code. The new law goes into effect on February 6th, 2024.

This law prohibits employers from taking "adverse action" against employees, contractors, or applicants for refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19. See Section 81D.001 for a definition of "adverse action:"

(1)"Adverse action" means an action taken by an employer that a reasonable person would consider was for the purpose of punishing, alienating, or otherwise- adversely affecting an employee, contractor, applicant for employment, or applicant for a contract position.

The law does allow certain healthcare facilities, providers, and physicians to require unvaccinated workers to wear protective medical equipment. These requirements are not considered an "adverse action" under the law. This exception is in Section 81D.0035(b).

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) takes complaints about violations of this law. TWC can:

  • investigate the violation; 
  • impose a $50,000 penalty per violation (this penalty is waived if the employer hires or reinstates the complainant); 
  • recover investigative costs from employers in violation; 
  • ask the Texas attorney general to bring a lawsuit against the employer.

Federal guidance

Federal guidance differs from Texas law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance for employers about COVID-19 vaccinations. The guidance states that, in general, employers can require COVID-19 vaccinations. However, they must provide “reasonable accommodations” required by federal laws.

The federal laws the EEOC cites to are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These laws require a “reasonable accommodation” if an employee cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to:

  • a sincerely held religious belief; or
  • a disability.

An employer may not have to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would place an "undue hardship" on the employer. Section K.2 has several examples of reasonable accommodations for employees.

The law can be complex, so employers or employees who have questions about COVID-19 vaccine policies at the workplace may wish to talk to an attorney before taking any action. For more information on finding an attorney, please see the library's Legal Help page.

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