Join Now

Utah Life Sciences News & Events

State Legislature Passes Statute regulating mandatory vaccination policies in the workplace.

November 10, 2021

The Utah legislature last week convened in special session and passed legislation, the “Workplace COVID-19 Amendments”, which provides employees with certain exceptions to the recently issued federal OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring vaccination of all employees of companies with more than 100 employees. 

The bill has been sent to the Governor’s desk. He is expected to sign the legislation. Meanwhile, the ETS has been stayed in the courts, with Utah joining a multi-state lawsuit challenging the OHSA rule.

OSHA has said in a statement on their website  that while it believes the agency has power to protect workers amid the pandemic, it is suspending activities related to the mandate, citing the pending litigation.

See below to learn more about the bill and how it impacts Utah companies.

– Allows an employee to be exempted from an employer mandate for vaccination based on a statement from the employee that meets one of three standards: 1) The vaccine would be injurious to the health or well-being of the employee,  2) they have a sincerely held religious belief prohibiting them from taking the vaccine, or 3) it conflicts with a sincerely held personal belief.

– Employers are prohibited from taking adverse actions against employees refusing the vaccine for any of the 3 reasons provided. If they do, it could give rise to a claim by the affected employee.

-Reassigning an employee to another role not requiring vaccination is not considered an adverse action. If there is no practical reassignment available the employee may be terminated without triggering an adverse action.

– Employers are required to pay for all testing required as a condition of employment.

– Companies with fewer than 15 employees are exempt if they can show the vaccination requirement has nexus with job requirements of the employee.

BioUtah has been working with the sponsors of the legislation to narrow the scope of the bill to avoid unintended consequences in the workplace. Of particular concern has been the fact so many life sciences companies have nexus with hospitals, clinics and research facilities that require vaccination making it incumbent on employees of the life sciences companies that interact with those facilities to be vaccinated. The best language that could be achieved was allowing a reassignment of such an employee that refuses to be vaccinated without it causing an adverse action on the part of the employer.

The bill as it stands will likely run afoul of the ETS if the ETS emerges successfully from litigation and will require amending the Utah Statute.

Read the full bill here »