Person with blue medical gloves holding syringe and vial.

On May 24, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law Senate Bill 267 (Act No. 2021-493), a measure prohibiting state entities and private businesses from requiring individuals to show proof of vaccination in order to receive goods or services. Following “an increase in legal questions related to … COVID-19 vaccination[s],” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a public notice on July 26, 2021, summarizing Alabama law on vaccination requirements and related matters.

The first page of the notice states in bold that “no government, school, or business in Alabama may demand that a constituent, student, or customer, respectively, be vaccinated for COVID-19 or show proof of his or her vaccination for COVID-19.” The public notice also clarifies that a part of the statute protecting consumers of goods and services from such demands “does not address employer-employee relationships.”

The public notice goes on to state the following:

Thus, [the law] cannot be read to prohibit private employers from requiring employees to vaccinate against COVID-19. While a business may inquire about the vaccination status of a consumer or request that unvaccinated consumers wear a mask or social distance, the business may not require proof of vaccination or discriminate against the consumer based on a refusal to confirm his or her vaccination status.

Key Takeaways

Alabama’s recently enacted statute addressing “vaccine or immunization passports” does not prohibit private employers from requiring employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Further, while Alabama retailers and other businesses may continue to request that customers wear masks and/or social distance, the law does not permit businesses to require proof of vaccination.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.

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