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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.

Employment


Contents

This page contains information on the following. Click the link to jump to each topic:

Employee Rights
Information on employee medical privacy, disability discrimination, and information on getting fired due to COVID-19.

Vaccine Requirements
Information about Texas and federal executive orders about COVID-19 vaccines requirements.

COVID-19 Testing Requirements
Information about employer-ordered COVID-19 testing.

Medical Leave for COVID-19
Options for employees who need to take off work due to COVID-19.

Workplace Safety
Information on workplace safety requirements and employer liability.

Mask Policies at Stores or Businesses
Information on mask policies for customers and/or employees.

Unemployment Benefits
Information on current unemployment benefits for those who are out of work due to COVID-19.

Employee Rights

Privacy, Health, Workplace Policies

Hiring & Firing

Vaccine Requirements

For more information on laws that affect COVID-19 vaccine requirements, please see the COVID-19 Vaccine Laws page of this guide.

The library has received a lot of questions about Texas and federal orders that affect COVID-19 vaccine requirements for employees. Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-40 prohibits any entity in Texas, including employers, from requiring COVID-19 vaccines:

No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.

The Texas Workforce Commission has stated in a letter to employers that employees can report violations of GA-40 to TWC.

To report violations of GA-40 to TWC, e-mail vaccine_job_loss@twc.texas.gov or call (800) 939-6631.

 At the federal level, President Biden has issued several executive orders and proposed regulations that require certain types of workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or submit to regular testing. Several of these orders have been blocked due to recent federal court decisions. We have more information on these individual orders on the Vaccine Laws page.

Please note that the library is unable to determine what these orders may mean for your specific situation. If you need help understanding how the law affects your situation, you should talk to a lawyer.

Understanding the Law

COVID-19 Testing Requirements

We have not been able to locate any Texas laws or federal laws that place restrictions on testing for COVID-19. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance to employers that addresses testing. Please see our Legal FAQ Can an employer require me to show proof of a COVID-19 test? for more details. 

Medical Leave for COVID-19

Whether you can take paid leave from your job if you get sick with COVID-19 or need to care for someone who has COVID-19 will likely depend on your workplace's leave policies. There is no state or federal law that requires an employer to provide paid leave to their employees. 

The Families First Coronovirus Response Act (FFCRA) required employers to offer paid leave to employees impacted by COVID-19, but these requirements expired on December 31st, 2020. 

Some employees may qualify for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers to offer unpaid leave to their employees for certain medical and family reasons. It's important to talk to your workplace about what you qualify for. Be sure to check with an attorney if you have questions about qualifiing for medical leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Understanding the Law

Workplace Safety

Right to a Safe Workplace

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees at all times and are expected to take certain safety precautions to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health & Safety Guidelines for Workplaces

Below are links to guidance from several federal agencies that detail how workplaces can take various health and safety measures to limit workers' exposure to COVID-19.

Mask Policies for Customers and Employees

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.

Unemployment Benefits

Workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced due to COVID-19 may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission is the state agency tasked with overseeing Texas's unemployment benefits program.

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