Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law SB 7, which bans private employers of any size from imposing or enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates as a condition of employment.  The law will take effect on February 6, 2024.

Specifically, under the law, a covered employer will not be permitted to:

  • adopt or enforce a mandate requiring an employee, contractor, or applicant for employment or a contract position to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment or a contract position; or
  • take an adverse action against an employee, contractor, applicant for employment or a contract position for a refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

An “adverse action” is defined as “an action taken by an employer that a reasonable person would consider was for the purpose of punishing, alienating, or otherwise adversely affecting an employee, contractor, applicant for employment, or applicant for a contract position.”

The law contains a limited exception for healthcare facilities and providers, which “may establish and enforce a reasonable policy that includes requiring the use of protective medical equipment by an individual who is an employee or contractor of the facility, provider, or physician and who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 based on the level of risk the individual presents to patients from the individual ’s routine and direct exposure to patients.”  Establishing or enforcing such a policy would not constitute an adverse action under the law.

The new law will be enforced by the Texas Workforce Commission (“Commission”), and workers may file complaints with the Commission if they believe they suffered an adverse action under the law.  Upon receipt of a complaint, the Commission will conduct an investigation into the alleged adverse action and may request that the state Attorney General bring an action for injunctive relief against the employer to prevent further violations of the law.

Employers who violate the law may be fined an administrative penalty of $50,000 for each violation, unless the employer: (i) hires the applicant for employment or contract position; or (ii) reinstates the employee or contractor and provides them with back pay and reestablishment of employee benefits from the date the adverse action took place.  The Commission may also recover from the employer “reasonable investigative costs” incurred by the Commission in conducting the investigation, regardless of whether the employer took the mitigating actions noted above.

The law will apply only to actions taken by an employer that occur on or after the effective date.

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Photo of Evandro Gigante Evandro Gigante

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of…

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of race, gender, national origin, disability and religious discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, defamation and breach of contract. Evandro also counsels employers through reductions-in-force and advises clients on restrictive covenant issues, such as confidentiality, non-compete and non-solicit agreements.

With a focus on discrimination and harassment matters, Evandro has extensive experience representing clients before federal and state courts. He has tried cases in court and before arbitrators and routinely represents clients before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as state and local human rights commissions.

Photo of Laura Fant Laura Fant

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns…

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns, with a focus on legal compliance, risk management and mitigation strategies, and workplace culture considerations.

Laura regularly counsels clients across numerous industries on a wide variety of employment matters involving recruitment and hiring, employee leave and reasonable accommodation issues, performance management, and termination of employment . She also advises on preparing, implementing and enforcing employment and separation agreements, employee handbooks and company policies, as well as provides training on topics including discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Laura is a frequent contributor to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace blog and The Proskauer Brief podcast.

Photo of Hannah Morris Hannah Morris

Hannah D. Morris is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

During her time at Proskauer, Hannah has assisted in litigation and investigation matters involving workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. She also assists employers…

Hannah D. Morris is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

During her time at Proskauer, Hannah has assisted in litigation and investigation matters involving workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. She also assists employers in counseling matters, such as drafting employment handbooks and researching workplace policies.

Hannah earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. While in law school, she served as a Research Assistant for Professor Richard J. Bonnie working on matters related to juvenile justice. Additionally, she interned for the Office of the Public Defender for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

Prior to law school, Hannah was a Teach for America Corps member teaching Fourth Grade in Eastern North Carolina.