AUSTIN, Texas – In a move that sparked controversy and criticism, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott today signed into law a bill that bans vaccine mandates by private employers as a condition of employment.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 7, was passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature last month. It prohibits private employers from requiring employees to get a COVID vaccination or provide proof of vaccination status. It also allows employees who are fired or discriminated against for refusing to get vaccinated to sue their employers for damages and reinstatement. Additionally, the bill authorizes the Texas Attorney General to file lawsuits and seek injunctions against employers who violate the law.
The law applies to all private employers in Texas, regardless of their size or industry. It also covers contractors, interns, volunteers, and other workers who are not directly employed by the company. The only exceptions are for health care facilities, nursing homes, and schools, which are allowed to impose vaccine requirements for their staff and students.
Governor Abbott said the law was necessary to protect the individual freedom and personal choice of Texans. He claimed that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, but should not be forced on anyone who does not want them. He also said that the law complements his previous executive order that banned state and local governments from imposing vaccine mandates or passports.
“This law adds to the law that I already signed that prohibits state and local governments from imposing COVID mandates. It’s long past time to put COVID behind us and restore individual freedom to all Texans. I thank Senator Middleton, Representative Leach, and all other members of the Texas Legislature who stood with this issue every step of the way,” said Governor Abbott.
However, the law was met with strong opposition from various groups, including business associations, labor unions, health experts, and civil rights organizations. They argued that the law infringes on the rights of employers to set their own health and safety policies, and puts the public health at risk by discouraging vaccination. They also warned that the law could lead to more COVID outbreaks, hospitalizations, and deaths, as well as lawsuits and economic losses.
“Senate Bill 7 is a dangerous and irresponsible law that will harm the health and well-being of millions of Texans. It will undermine our efforts to end the pandemic and jeopardize our economic recovery. It will also expose employers to legal liability and potential boycotts from customers and investors who value safety and responsibility. We urge Governor Abbott to reconsider his decision and veto this bill,” said a joint statement from several business groups, including the Texas Association of Business, the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Dallas Regional Chamber.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with only 54% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state also has one of the highest rates of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, with an average of over 10,000 cases and 200 deaths per day in the past week.