Employers in Tennessee need to hold off on requiring COVID-19 vaccine proof from employees because they might run afoul of a newly minted law. On November 12, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an omnibus COVID-19 bill into law and as a result, most Tennessee employers cannot mandate their employees and applicants show proof of COVID-19 vaccination status. We’ve previously blogged about this law here.
Many Employers May Not Compel Employees or Applicants to Prove Vaccination Status
The new Tennessee law states that a “private business . . . shall not compel or otherwise take an adverse action against a person to compel the person to provide proof of vaccination if the person objects to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for any reason.”
The law effectively prohibits Tennessee employers from (1) compelling employees or applicants who object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine to show proof of vaccination status, or (2) taking an “adverse action” against an employee or applicant who fails to do so. Accordingly, covered employers need to ensure that their hiring, firing, and disciplinary process does not turn on the failure of an individual to show proof of vaccine status if that individual objects to receiving the vaccine “for any reason.”
The law does not apply to:
- Any school
- Certain Medicare or Medicaid certified providers subject to contrary federal requirements
- Assisted living facilities
- Homes for the aged
- Nursing homes
- Residential hospice facilities
Law Creates an Exemption Process for Federal Contractors
The new law creates an exemption process for federal contractors required to comply with President Biden’s Executive Order mandating that employees working on a covered contract be vaccinated. If a federal government contractor or subcontractor can demonstrate that complying with the new Tennessee law would result in the loss of federal funding, they may file for an exemption with the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has established a website through which federal contractors or subcontractors can request an exemption.
The Playing Field Changes Daily
It is important for employers to stay informed in this area that is literally changing by the day. And if it’s important for employers to stay up to date, that means it is important for us to do the same. In that spirit we’ll be sure to keep you updated as things develop.
*Myles Chaney, a co-author of this blog post, is not an attorney.
Application for Admission to Tennessee Bar Pending
Practicing Pursuant to Rule 7, Section 10.04 of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules