Late in the afternoon on October 11, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA 40 prohibiting “any entity,” including private employers, from requiring any individual, whether an employee or a consumer, receive a COVID-19 vaccination if that individual objects to the vaccination. Abbott cited the Biden Administration’s stated intent to require certain private employers to mandate vaccines for their employers as one of the reasons he issued the order. Employers face a $1,000.00 penalty for violating the prohibition. Abbott also called on the Texas legislature to pass a law prohibiting COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Texas in the upcoming special session of the legislature.
Aside from reinforcing that employees have an ability to object to vaccination based on religious beliefs and medical reasons, the order explicitly includes “prior recovery” as a sufficient medical reason to object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. The order also makes clear an individual may object based on “personal conscience.”
It remains to be seen how such a prohibition on COVID-19 vaccine mandates will play out once the Biden Administration’s announced COVID-19 mandates for private employers employing 100 or more employees are rolled out by OSHA. It will also be interesting to see whether other governors or legislatures, including Governor DeSantis in Florida, follow Abbott’s lead.
Governor DeSantis has made clear he believes Florida Statute s. 381.00316, which took effect on July 1, 2021, prevents local governments in Florida from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. The statute’s language forbids government entities from requiring a person provide documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from a governmental entity’s operations. However, private employers in Florida are not prohibited from mandating COVID-19 vaccination for their employees as the statute only prohibits private businesses from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or recovery to gain to access to, entry upon, or service from the business.
One thing is certain—there will be more developments regarding vaccine mandates, and we will cover them as they transpire.