Law

Houston attorney says Abbott’s executive order does not prohibit vaccine mandates

HOUSTON – Many Texas politicians are up in arms over Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting vaccine mandates by any entity. However, one Houston attorney says the order isn’t exactly stopping businesses from requiring the jab.

Earlier this week, Abbott issued an executive order stating that no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination by any individual, including an employee or consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said.

Some Texas politicians, however, believe the governor’s order is a political maneuver that will ultimately subject companies to litigation.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, for example, is encouraging Texas business to fight back against the “overreach” and sue Abbott.

“The Governor’s latest executive order banning private businesses from keeping their employees and customers safe is shameful,” Menefee said. “And we know that this is mostly a political bluster designed to create confusion and subject businesses to burdensome lawsuits, which can only slow down our economic recovery.

“We must keep pushing these cases forward so the Texas Supreme Court can rein in Governor Abbott’s illegal executive orders.”

Houston attorney Mark Temple, a litigation partner with BakerHostetler in Houston, says Abbott’s executive order does not prohibit vaccine mandates, but only allows employees (and any other individuals) to object to the mandate on the basis of personal conscience; religious belief; and medical reasons.

“Most employers in Texas can likely comply with both the forthcoming OSHA standard and Abbott’s executive order by requiring employees to either get vaccinated; or be tested on a weekly basis for COVID,” Temple said. “Therefore, there is no conflict between the two for most employers, except federal contractors.” 

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However, federal contractors operating in Texas face more of an issue, according to Temple.

The nationwide executive order issued by President Biden requires vaccination for employees, except for accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs or disabilities.

Temple thinks it is likely that Biden’s executive order would be found to preempt Abbott’s executive order to the extent of this conflict.

Abbott has also sent a message to the Chief Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate adding this issue as an item to the Third Special Session agenda. The executive order will be rescinded upon the passage of such legislation.

Written by Staff reports

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