Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers

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AUSTIN, Texas - Private businesses in Texas can no longer require employees to have a COVID-19 vaccination.

As COVID-19 cases are slowly re-emerging in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 7, which prohibits private businesses from requiring employees and contractors to get a COVID-19 vaccine, into law Friday.

The law does provide some exceptions for medical facilities.

The law could face legal challenges, but right now, it is against state law for any employer, private or public, to require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

"It's long past time to put COVID behind us and restore individual freedom in Texas," Abbott said. "Employers that violate this law are subject to a $50,000 fine."

Texas is not the first state to create some sort of ban on workplace vaccine mandates, and the state already prohibits governments from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations.

"I think, if challenged, it goes all the way. A private employer will not likely have a lot of footing," said Buena Vista Lyons, who is a board-certified business and employment lawyer in Dallas.

Many states give companies broad allowances for at-will employment decisions.

But even so, Lyons said Texas has the right to make laws specific to private businesses.

The law does allow a workaround for doctor offices, clinics, and other medical facilities.

Those businesses could require protective gear like masking.

While the law bans vaccines, FOX 4 asked Lyons if someone who’s not vaccinated could also refuse to be forced to wear a mask.

"To some extent, they could come up with another reason to say that they can't wear masks. The protective gear. For example, they can say there's some other reason why they can't wear the protective gear. And I don't know what that could be, that maybe they will come up with some religious reason," she said.

Gov. Abbott said he is confident the law will be upheld in court, just like the law passed last year in terms of banning mandates in governments.