Vaccine Requirements in the Workplace: Changes to Employment Law in Utah

May 5, 2023
Chandler Anderson

Vaccine Mandates: A Quick Review

Since March 2020, the entire world has been struggling to overcome the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people died after contracting the virus, unemployment levels soared, and many families faced financial hardships because of the pandemic. With the development of a vaccine to combat COVID-19, the debate on vaccine mandates took center stage. Vaccine passports, which are any documents, digital records, or software applications that indicate the immunization status of an individual, became quite common. Presenting your vaccine passport when flying internationally, enlisting in university classes, or when entering a sports venue became quite common.  

Having a certain vaccination status became an obligation for employment in some offices around the United States. The White House was one of these offices, as it required its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It is crucial to understand how these COVID-19 vaccination mandates have changed lawmaking, especially that of employment law, throughout the United States.

Utah’s Response to the End of the National Emergency

As President Joe Biden signed a bill in April 2023 declaring the end of the national emergency status of the pandemic, the question remained on the legality of requiring vaccine passports for employment.

In response to this question, in its most recent general session, the Utah State Legislature passed a law prohibiting employers in both the public and private sectors from mandating a certain vaccination status as an obligation for employment.

Utah Legislature: HB 131

Outlined in this new law are several key points important for business owners to understand:

  1. It is illegal for any employer to ask for proof of vaccination against any disease, including COVID-19.
  1. It is unlawful for an employer to require a current or potential employee to become immunized against any disease as a condition of employment.
  1. Employers cannot use an employee’s immunization status as a form of discrimination regarding compensation or other privileges of employment.
  1. There are exceptions to this law, as institutions of higher education, schools, childcare programs, and health care providers can require vaccinations for the safety of those they work around.  

This new law is just one of many changes to employment practices in Utah. To avoid legal headaches down the road, it is critical for business owners to stay updated on changes to employment laws. Laws regarding employment requirements, wages, and discrimination change quite frequently, and it is difficult for many small business owners to stay on top of all the adjustments and modifications lawmakers enact in each legislative session. At Sumsion Business Law, we have experienced attorneys who can help you navigate the complex laws of operating your own business.  

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