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Tennessee Prohibits Discrimination for Lack of Vaccine Proof

A Tennessee law (TN SB 9014) signed on November 12, 2021, now prohibits all employers with one or more employees from discriminating against employees for failing to provide proof of vaccination if they object to getting the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason.

The law does not prohibit employers from the following: adopting a vaccine mandate, requiring employees to disclose their vaccination status, or asking employees to provide proof of vaccination. But an employer cannot ask employees for proof of vaccination status and then take an adverse action if the employee fails or refuses to provide proof of their vaccination status.

It should also be noted that employers may ask an employee who is unvaccinated the reason why they have decided not to be vaccinated for purposes of determining if there is a medical or religious accommodation that should be provided under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

What About Federal Law?

The legality of state laws that obstruct employer vaccination policies will also be dependent upon whether the federal OSHA ETS survives its current legal challenges.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should ensure that those parties who are responsible for confirming employee vaccination status know not to demand that an employee provide proof of said vaccination if they choose not to do so. Supervisors/Managers should also be aware that no adverse employment actions should be taken against employees solely for not providing proof of their status.

Employers should also consult with their legal counsel on the applicability of the law and their specific situation.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.