A new law in Tennessee expands protections for employees subject to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Under SB1823, employees may request a medical exemption or a religious exemption, and employers must give them a prompt response and must not take adverse action against them.
The Medical Exemption
To get a medical exemption, the employee must provide “a valid reason for a medical exemption supported by a statement that has been signed and dated by a licensed healthcare provider.”
Employers must respond within 2 business days and must not deny a request without a written explanation.
The Religious Exemption
To get a religious exemption, the employee must state that they have a religious belief that prevents them from complying with the COVID-19 vaccine policy. The new law does not allow employers to require further proof.
Additionally, employers may not deny exemptions that cause undue hardship or create a direct threat to others in the workplace.
What Can Employers Do to Enforce Vaccine Mandates?
SB1823 essentially forbids employers from enforcing vaccine mandates if someone claims a religious exemption. Employers may not take adverse actions against someone who refuses to provide proof of vaccination because they object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine “for any reason.”
Adverse actions may include:
- Firing someone
- Reducing their compensation
- Changing the terms or conditions of their employment
- Making the employee work somewhere else
- Altering the employee’s rights, immunities, promotions, or privileges
If employers violate any part of the new law, they can face a civil penalty of $10,000, as well as civil lawsuits from wronged employees.
What If My Employer Violates the New Law?
If your employer violates SB1823, you can report them to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. You should also discuss your rights and legal options with a local employment law attorney.
Donati Law, PLLC is dedicated to upholding the law in Tennessee, and we have been serving employees in Memphis and the Mid-South area for more than 35 years.
Our legal team seeks to improve your life – and the lives of all people in our community. Step behind the Donati Shield and let us protect you.
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