Texas’s New Law on Vaccines and Passports: What Private and Public Employers Need to Know
On June 7, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that prohibits government entities from requiring individuals to provide evidence of COVID-19 vaccination status and strongly discourages private businesses in Texas from requiring what has become known as “COVID-19 vaccine passports” from customers. This new law is effective immediately.
Importantly, the law does not impose penalties or fines for violation, as is the case with Florida’s new law. At the same time, the law aims to ensure compliance by disqualifying noncompliant businesses from receiving state-funded contracts or grants and also empowers state agencies to condition a business’s receipt of licenses and permits on compliance with the new law. Importantly, while the law’s restriction on government entities extends broadly to any “individual,” the provision applicable to private companies is limited to “customer[s]” and does not seek to restrict an employer’s ability to require or encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for employees or to require proof of vaccination status from employees. Additionally, the new law expressly permits businesses to implement “COVID-19 screening and infection control protocols in accordance with state and federal law to protect public health.”
On April 5, 2021, Governor Abbott signed an executive order that similarly prohibited government entities and private entities that receive public funds from requiring certain individuals to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations or a COVID-19 vaccine passport. For government agencies, these prohibitions extend broadly to “any individual,” whereas the prohibitions applicable to private companies receiving public funds are limited to “consumer[s].”