Can Employers in Texas Mandate the COVID-19 Vaccine?
With the Delta variant spreading, areas across the country are seeing COVID-19 cases steadily rise. At the same time, vaccination rates have slowed down. In response to this, many employers are starting to announce vaccine mandates. Those who are hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are likely to question the legality of these mandates.
Employment attorney Dan A. Atkerson has heard from numerous employees in Allen, TX, Plano, TX, Frisco, TX, and surrounding areas who ask, “can employers in Texas mandate the COVID vaccine?” Here we discuss whether vaccine mandates are legal, and what options are available to employees who are unwilling to get vaccinated.
Are Employer Vaccine Mandates Legal?
Vaccine mandates is a complex issue that is likely to become quite controversial as more mandates are issued. In the most basic terms, employers can legally implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A mandatory vaccine policy is valid as long as it is job-related and is consistent with business necessity. Furthermore, any employer vaccine mandate must allow for certain exemptions.
Exemptions for Vaccine Mandates
Vaccine mandates cannot go against existing employment laws, which means that employers must provide some exemptions. Specifically, a vaccine mandate policy must exempt employees who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine due to a disability, or for sincerely held religious beliefs.
Under anti-discrimination laws and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) employers are permitted to have a vaccine mandate if they can show that an unvaccinated worker would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace. However, employers must consider whether reasonable accommodations could be made to allow the employee to continue to perform their job.
Vaccine Mandates and Reasonable Accommodations
A reasonable accommodation is a change in the way a job is done, or a change in the work environment, that allows a person to perform the essential duties of a job while accommodating for a disability or a sincerely held religious belief. In regards to vaccine mandates, employers are legally required to offer a reasonable accommodation to those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine due to a disability or sincerely held religious belief, as long as it does not place an undue burden on the employer.
Examples of potential accommodations for an unvaccinated employee include:
- Wearing a face mask at work
- Working at a social distance from employees and non-employees
- Working from home
- Working a modified shift
- Undergoing regular COVID-19 tests
Can I Be Fired if Reasonable Accommodations Cannot be Made?
If an employer is able to show that reasonable accommodations cannot be made for a non-vaccinated employee, they have the right to refuse entrance to the workplace. However, that doesn’t mean that employees can be terminated immediately.
Employees who are unable to work remotely or be otherwise accommodated may be entitled to paid or unpaid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or other employer policies. Dan A. Atkerson can help Texas employees explore their legal options regarding vaccine mandates and leave.
Contact Employment Lawyer Dan A. Atkerson
If your employer is implementing a vaccine mandate policy, employment lawyer Dan A. Atkerson can answer any questions you may have about your employment rights, including entitlement to reasonable accommodations. To discuss your situation in further detail, send us a message online, or call our office at (214) 383-3606.