In a special session this week, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill aimed at undermining the federal vaccine mandate for large employers. Like previously existing law, SB 2004 mandates that any Utah employer requiring vaccination for COVID-19 must allow employees an exemption for medical or reasons or because of religious beliefs. The Utah bill goes further, however, and requires an employee exemption for a “sincerely held personal belief.”
The formulation of these three exemptions tracks existing vaccination exemptions in public and higher education settings in Utah. The bill prohibits employers from taking adverse action against any employee opting out of vaccine requirements for one of the three sanctioned reasons and requires employers to pay for mandated COVID-19 testing. SB 2004 does not apply to federal contractors required to comply with federal vaccine mandates.
The status of vaccine mandates for Utah employers remains in flux. If Governor Cox signs SB 2004, Utah employers would be required to honor employee requests to opt-out of vaccine requirements for one of the enumerated reasons. If the federal vaccine mandate goes into effect, Utah employers should comply with the federal requirements, barring further legal action.