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Volume XII, Number 183

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South Carolina Anti-Vaccine Mandate Law: Implications for Private Employers

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has signed into law House Bill 3126, which has implications for public and private employers that continue to require employees in South Carolina to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The law prohibits public employers in the State of South Carolina from requiring that individuals be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Similarly, schools within the state cannot require attendees to be vaccinated. Private employers in the state can mandate vaccination, but they must broadly allow for religious and medical exemptions (explained below).

The law prohibits places of public accommodation (such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, and concert halls) from requiring that patrons be vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination for entry.

Federal contractors are exempt from the requirements of the law.

The law also symbolically declares any federal vaccination mandate unconstitutional and unenforceable in the State of South Carolina.

Exemptions

Private employers that implement a vaccine mandate are required under the law to recognize religious and medical exemptions.

To claim a religious exemption, an individual need only “provide his [or her] employer with a short, plain statement” indicating the vaccination requirement violates a tenet of their deeply held religious conviction.

Medical exemptions can include the presence of antibodies, an earlier positive COVID-19 test result, or pregnancy. The law is silent on how long prior positive test results or antibodies tests can exempt employees from an employer’s vaccine requirement.

Independent contractors, nonemployee vendors, and other third parties simply providing employers with goods and services must be excluded from an employer’s vaccine mandate. The law also allows private employers to offer incentives to employees who elect to be vaccinated.

Unemployment Benefits

The law provides that employees who are terminated or suspended or who suffer a pay reduction for failing to comply with an employer’s vaccination requirement are eligible for unemployment benefits.

COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act

The new law reenacts an earlier piece of legislation, the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act, passed in May 2021. The Act provides employers immunity from lawsuits claiming that their employees or patrons contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, as long as the employer is taking reasonable steps to follow public health guidance at the time.

Originally, the Act applied retroactively to claims filed between March 13, 2020, and June 30, 2021. The new law expands that period to December 31, 2023. (For more details on the COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act, see our articles, South Carolina Governor Signs COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act Into Law and South Carolina Senate Passes COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act.)

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 137
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About this Author

T. Chase Samples Principal Greenville South Carolina
Principal

T. Chase Samples is a principal in the Greenville, South Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice covers the spectrum of employment litigation, including both state and federal claims, and individual and class action suits.

In recent years, most of Chase's practice has been in the area of wage and hour law. He regularly defends corporations and organizations against class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state law. He also regularly advises clients on wage and hour compliance issues....

864-672-8034
Cashida Okeke, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
Associate

Cashida N. Okeke is an Associate in the Greenville, South Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters, including preventive advice and counseling. 

Ms. Okeke represents employers in various employment and labor matters, including claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation brought under Title VII and the ADEA, as well as in general employment litigation matters such as wrongful termination. Ms. Okeke also assists in advising clients on issues...

864-232-7000
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