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State Legislation Impacting Employer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Several states have enacted legislation that will directly impact President Biden’s COVID-19 Employee Vaccine Mandate, including Ohio and South Carolina, who will be joining nearly a dozen other states that have set legal limits for on-the-job shot requirements.  Montana and Tennessee legislatures have banned vaccine mandates as a condition of employment, while counterparts from Florida to North Dakota have required employers to offer broad exemptions or accommodations for employees.  With states passing new restrictions while courts consider whether federal vaccine policies can take effect, only adds to the turmoil for employers trying to operate safe workplaces during the pandemic.  Federal courts have temporarily blocked enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine requirements applying to federal contractors and health-care employers, and the shot-or-test mandate for other large employers. Conversely, a sampling of state and local governments are requiring some private-sector employers to mandate vaccines, such as the policy announced last week in New York City.

On Monday, December 13, 2021, Bloomberg News reported that “last Friday a South Carolina bill passed the state’s House would require employers to grant exemptions to any on-the-job vaccine mandate and stipulate that a worker fired over a vaccine requirement would be eligible for unemployment benefits.  Similarly, an Ohio bill cleared the state’s House on November 18th would require employers to grant broad exemptions, including for ‘reasons of personal conscience,’ going beyond the religious and disability accommodations required by federal law.” Each bill still needs passage by its state’s Senate.

An Arizona budget bill that included broad exemptions for workplace vaccine mandates was struck down in court for violating legislative rules that limit bills to a single subject, but the state’s legislature may try to revive that effort next year.  Finally, employers in 11 states already need to navigate limits on workplace vaccine mandates (Alabama, Arkansas (taking effect in January), Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia).