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Indiana Passes Legislation Restricting COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

On March 3, 2022, Indiana passed House Bill 1001 (HB1001), requiring covered employers to acknowledge religious, medical, and acquired immunity exemptions from vaccine mandates, and to allow employees with exemptions to submit to COVID-19 testing rather than required immunization.

Covered Employers

According to HB1001, almost all employers within the borders of the state of Indiana are subject to the law. However, the following employers have been specifically designated as being exempt:

  • Federal employers;
  • Federal contractors;
  • Healthcare employers that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding; and
  • Professional sports organizations and entertainment venues with regard to their employees who work directly with teams and entertainment at the venue.

Obtaining an Exemption

To obtain an exemption from the vaccine mandate, employees will need to submit certain documentation, based on the reason(s) behind seeking the exemption. For instance, an employee seeking an exemption as a result of a medical reason would need to submit documentation from their doctor, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse practitioner who physically examined the employee and determined that the COVID-19 vaccine is medically harmful to the employee’s health.

To obtain a religious exemption, an employee would need to submit a written statement explaining the reason behind the declination of the vaccine is due to a sincerely held religious belief. However, when it comes to the religious exemption, an employer must engage in the interactive process under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when determining if a reasonable accommodation can be made for this particular reason. This would entail the employer and employee having a fluid conversation regarding the accommodation request in order to determine in the accommodation can be made without posing any undue hardship. Finally, in the event an employee is looking to obtain an exemption based on natural immunity, the employee is required to present a positive, FDA-approved lab test (antigen, PCR, or antibody test), that had been taken within the past three months.

Testing

For those employees who have been officially exempted from the vaccine mandate for one of the above-mentioned reasons, employers are able to require that the employee be subjected to mandatory COVID-19 testing, no more than two times per week. The test conducted must be FDA-approved, be the least invasive testing option available, and cannot create an undue burden on the employee. However, the law remains silent regarding who is responsible for the costs associated with said testing.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should review their current COVID-19 vaccination policies and procedures in order to ensure that they’re complying with the updated legislation, especially regarding testing in lieu of vaccination. Furthermore, employers will want to ensure that those reviewing any exemption requests have an understanding of the parameters of the exemptions in question, and if necessary, engage with legal counsel for assistance with working through the interactive process.

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