Although the EEOC recently gave employers the green light to require employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations once available, some states are attempting to override that guidance by passing statutes preventing companies from mandating employees receive the vaccine.
South Carolina, for example, has introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from taking any form of adverse action against an employee who refuses to be vaccinated. Effectively, this law would protect employees who make the choice not to be vaccinated and not just on the grounds of health issues or religious beliefs, but for any reason.
Legislation introduced in Washington State would prevent employers from requiring that an employee be vaccinated “as a condition of employment if they make a verbal or written declaration of medical, philosophical, or religious objection.” Again, the addition of the philosophical objection carves a path for employees to deny the vaccine for almost any reason.
Perhaps one of the most severe statutes to be introduced, happens to be in myHRcounsel’s home state of Minnesota. Here, legislators have proposed a law that would make disciplining an employee who refuses the coronavirus vaccine a felony level criminal action. This statute also does not limit the employee’s ability to refuse a vaccine to just medical or religious reasons, but again carves out broad ability for an employee to refuse the vaccine and remain protected.
Although these pieces of legislation have yet to be passed into law, employers who have considered implementing mandatory vaccination programs should be watchful as these bills wend their way through the legislative process. As always, myHRcounsel’s attorneys are keeping an eye on these and other state vaccine developments and will inform our clients as soon as we know more.
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