The order applies to any Texas employer and prohibits any Texas entity from requiring vaccination of employees or consumers. The order marks a significant change after Abbott previously gave private companies the option to require vaccines for workers. A spokesman for Abbott said in late August that private companies do not need the government to run their businesses. In Texas and Florida, state officials said they wanted to protect workers' freedoms by limiting the types of safety protocols employers could implement.
In addition, it questions whether private employers in Texas can deny exemption to any employee on religious or disability grounds due to excessive hardship to the employer or because of a direct threat posed by the employee or others. GA-40, the first order related to COVID-19 that prevents private employers in Texas from requiring employees to get vaccinated in some circumstances. In addition, businesses with at least 100 employees will be covered by an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Temporary Emergency Standard (ETS), which will require covered employers to ensure employees are vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19.The latest move seems to be motivated, at least in part, by President Joe Biden's actions in September, which require all employers with more than 100 workers to demand vaccines for workers or that they be tested weekly for the virus. In particular, Governor Abbott affirms this Order, like many of his other COVID related orders, under the Texas Disaster Act.
The Texas Disaster Act also limits the governor's authority to issue orders that interfere with the course or conduct of a labor dispute, unless such action is necessary to prevent or mitigate an imminent or existing danger to public health or safety. Biden also demanded that all federal government workers and contractors be vaccinated, prompting almost all major airlines, including American Airlines and Texas-based Southwest Airlines, to announce that they would comply with the mandate. Both say that a company that receives public funds or a license or permit from the State of Texas may not require customers to submit evidence of COVID-19 vaccination. As coronavirus makes it increasingly clear that it is here to stay, businesses are feeling pressure to reopen and restore some semblance of normality.
Caught between following federal guidance and state executive order, representatives of high-profile Texas-based companies told TIME that they believe federal law, as well as employee and customer safety, replaces Abbott's rule. Governor Abbott's order comes immediately after President Biden's recently announced COVID-19 Action Plan, which includes mandatory vaccinations for millions of contractor employees doing business with the federal government and healthcare workers at participating Medicare hospitals and Medicaid and other healthcare settings. However, nursing homes, state-supported housing centers, assisted living centers, and long-term care facilities may still “require documentation of a resident's vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine. C) A business in this state may not require the customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer's COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery when entering, accessing, or receiving service from the company.
The language of the order is ambiguous as to whether a Texas employer can require a COVID-19 vaccine from an employee who opposes on the basis of “personal conscience” without objection to a vaccine required for religious belief or medical reasons. .