Governor Greg Abbott signed Executive Order (EO) No. GA-40 on October 11, 2021, making it illegal for any Texas organization to force anyone, including an employee, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if that person objects “for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.” A $1,000 fine is the maximum that can assessed for violating EO GA-40. Texas and Montana are the only two states that currently have orders or laws that specifically address private employers’ rights to require vaccination for employees, thanks to the issuance of EO GA-40.
Bases Of Objection On Vaccination:
It’s unclear from the order’s wording whether there are two or three grounds for objecting to the vaccination. Particularly, it’s not clear from the order itself whether it forbids employers from requiring individuals to get vaccinations if those individuals object for reasons related to their (1) personal conscience based on a religious belief, (2) religious belief, or (3) medical reasons.
Or whether it forbids employers from requiring individuals to get vaccinations for reasons related to their (1) personal conscience based on a religious belief, (2) medical reasons, or (3) reasons related to their (1) personal conscience. You can read the order either way.
Clarification Of Personal Conscience:
Despite the ambiguous language, Governor Greg Abbott intended to expand the typical exemptions under Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), inadvertently including both “personal conscience” and COVID-19 recovery as exempt categories. He later clarified this in an interview, indicating that he views the “personal conscience” exemption as a separate category.
Compel Receipt Of A COVID-19 Vaccine:
When taken literally, Governor Abbott’s order does not specifically forbid employers from asking employees about their vaccination status or from taking discriminatory employment measures based on that information. Employers cannot “compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine,” all that stated. Because an employee free to choose not to get vaccinated. An employer may claim that its mandatory vaccination policy does not “compel receipt” of the vaccine.
Regardless of how it perceived, Governor Abbott’s most recent order is his broadest one to date. In conclusion, Governor Abbott’s order is an important development, but it raises a lot of questions. Greater clarity might be provided by upcoming legal issues and additional government regulations. As new information becomes available, Ogletree Deakins will continue to update its earlier research, add to its ongoing monitoring of the COVID-19 pandemic, and report on developments. Updates will also made in the company’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center. The company’s podcast and webinar programs also provide crucial information for employers.