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COVID-19 & Texas Law

This guide is updated to reflect information pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Information in this guide is subject to change at any time.

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COVID-19 "Vaccine Passports" Prohibited

Several recent Texas laws discuss "vaccine passports" or showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Section 161.0085 of the Texas Health & Safety Code prohibits state and local governments from issuing documentation of a person's COVID-19 vaccination status: 

(b) A governmental entity in this state may not issue a vaccine passport, vaccine pass, or other standardized documentation to certify an individual's COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party for a purpose other than health care or otherwise publish or share any individual's COVID-19 immunization record or similar health information for a purpose other than health care.

Section 161.0085 also says that businesses can't require proof of vaccination from their customers. Businesses that receive state funds or who are licensed by the state are at risk of losing their contracts or licensure if they require proof of vaccination: 

(c) A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer's COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business. A business that fails to comply with this subsection is not eligible to receive a grant or enter into a contract payable with state funds.

(d) Notwithstanding any other law, each appropriate state agency shall ensure that businesses in this state comply with Subsection (c) and may require compliance with that subsection as a condition for a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary for conducting business in this state.

However, this statute does not prevent Texas businesses from putting COVID-19 screening procedures in place:

(e) This section may not be construed to: (1) restrict a business from implementing COVID-19 screening and infection control protocols in accordance with state and federal law to protect public health;

Additionally, Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-39 from August 25th, 2021, also prohibits public and private entities that receive public funding from requiring consumers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status:

Any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money, shall not require a consumer to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine. No consumer may be denied entry to a facility financed in whole or in part by public funds for failure to provide documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

Mask Policies at Stores or Businesses

Private businesses still have the right to require masks for customers and employees, but most state and local government entities can no longer do so.

Policies for Customers

Governor Abbott's Executive Order No. GA-38 states the following regarding a private business's ability to require masks:

In providing or obtaining services, every person (including individuals, businesses, and other legal entities) is strongly encouraged to use good-faith efforts and available resources to follow the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) health recommendations, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus

Previous executive orders related to the COVID-19 response explicitly stated that nothing in the orders prevented a business from requiring their customers to follow certain hygiene measures, including masks, but this language does not appear in GA-38.

Generally speaking, a business can set their own rules and policies — similar to a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule — as long as they do not discriminate against a protected class of people (e.g., on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or disability). Please see the Disabilities & Mask Requirements box on this page for information about requesting accommodations related to a disability.

Policies for Employees

According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (see FAQ G.2) an employer can require employees to wear protective gear (such as face coverings or gloves). Employees may make a request for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (such as a modified mask that can be worn with a religious head covering). Employers should provide the modification or an alternative modification unless it would create an “undue hardship” for the employer.

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