New Law Will Prevent Private Employers From Requiring COVID-19 Vaccines

December 1, 2023


Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 7. The bill bans private employers from adopting or enforcing workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates. State and local government employers are already prohibited from doing so in Chapter 81B of the Texas Health and Safety Code. 

The new law will take effect on February 6, 2024. It covers employees, contractors, and job applicants in the private sector.

The bill adds Chapter 81D to the Texas Health & Safety Code. According to Section 81D.002:

Sec.81D.002. EMPLOYER CORONAVIRUS VACCINE MANDATES PROHIBITED. 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.

Employers cannot take an "adverse action" against an employee for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The phrase "adverse action" is defined in Section 81D.001(1):

(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. 

There are no exceptions for healthcare providers like hospitals. However, healthcare providers may require unvaccinated staff to wear masks and other protective equipment. The policy must be reasonable and based on the risk presented to patients. Section 81D.0035(b) states:

(b) A health care facility, health care provider, or physician may establish and enforce a reasonable policy that includes requiring the use of protective medical equipment by an individual who is an employee or contractor of the facility, provider, or physician and who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 based on the level of risk the individual presents to patients from the individual’s routine and direct exposure to patients.

Once the law takes effect, violations may be reported to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). TWC will be able to:

  • investigate the complaint
  • ask the attorney general to file a lawsuit against the employer
  • impose a $50,000 penalty (waived if the employer hires or reinstates the individual)
  • recover costs of investigation from the employer found in violation

Senate Bill 7 was passed by the 88th Legislature during the 3rd Called Session. Gov. Abbott signed the bill on November 10, 2023.

Previously, the governor had prohibited workplace vaccine mandates in Executive Order GA-40, issued on October 11, 2021.

 Additional Information

Texas Voters Approve New Constitutional Amendments

New Laws Effective January 1st

State Law Library

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