The Law in Texas
On June 7, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a ban on “vaccine passports,” which prohibits government entities from inquiring about vaccination status. However, in early October Abbott signed an executive order that went a step further, stating that neither government entities nor private employers can inquire about vaccination status of employees or customers. This can make it tricky for concerned employers to know whether those who interact within their business are vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Job Application Process
Not only can employers not ask about vaccination status at the application stage -- generally it might reveal a possible religious objection or disability, which is protected under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) -- but now Abbott’s executive order makes it trickier to be able to ascertain whether potential employees have been vaccinated. If you are an employer who would prefer a vaccinated workforce, then your best bet is to head off the question at the start by including that you prefer vaccinated candidates in your job post. This might encourage potential employees to disclose their status within their cover letter. Just be careful to not directly inquire or otherwise discriminate against applicants solely on their vaccination status, as this could get you into trouble with the law.
Employers may also consider the setup of their business to allow for safer interactions for employees and customers. If you are a concerned employer, and yet want to steer clear of violating any privacy laws, you could offer options to help keep your employees and customers safe such as virtual meetings or curbside service. Consider how closely your employees work in your building, and whether there are options to help with social distancing and/or having some employees work from home at least part of the week.
However you feel about the COVID-19 vaccines, ideally you want your business to be successful. It may be helpful to get a consensus about what everyone is comfortable with in the scope of your business. Considering both your employees’ needs as well as your customers’ can help keep everyone safe and happy without violating privacy laws. You know your employees and customers best. Together you can find the best way forward for your community.