Texas’ Third Special Session ended on October 19, 2021 without the Texas Legislature codifying any law related to Governing Abbott’s recent Executive Order (GA-40), which prohibits entities (including private employers and businesses) from compelling COVID-19 vaccinations. Polsinelli’s summary of this Executive Order can be read here. Absent Texas’ Governor Abbott calling a Fourth Special Session, the Texas Legislature will not reconvene until January 2023—meaning the substance of the Executive Order is unlikely to become state law.
The lack of any legislative movement on this issue is noteworthy because Governor Abbott had called on the Texas Legislature to take up this matter—which was introduced as Senate Bill 51 (“SB 51”)—during the Third Special Session. SB 51 was aimed at protecting certain individuals, including employees, from varying levels of vaccine mandates. In going one step further, SB 51 would have made it unlawful if an employer fails to hire, discharges, “or otherwise discriminates against an individual with respect to the compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment because the individual claims an exemption” such as a medical condition or reasons of conscience, including a religious belief.
While the Texas Legislature’s refusal to advance this bill does not impact the enforceability of this Executive Order (which remains in place), it does signal that the Texas Legislature does not have an appetite for codifying additional restrictions on what private businesses may mandate with their employees. Once OSHA’s forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard is issued (which will require covered employers to mandate vaccination or weekly testing with their employees), this may change.
In the interim, Polsinelli attorneys will continue to monitor and report on new vaccine mandate developments.