On June 15, 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill 271 prohibiting any county, city, town, or village government receiving public funds from requiring COVID-19 vaccination documents (commonly known as “vaccine passports”) from citizens. In addition, according to the new law, Missouri citizens must be allowed access to any building, transportation system, or service without showing proof they have received the vaccine. While Missouri is following in the footsteps of other states such as Texas, Florida, and Montana, this new law is more narrowly targeted and does not apply to private businesses and employers.
Currently, Missouri employers are still generally able to mandate vaccinations in the workplace, consistent with the recently released Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance advising that vaccination requirements are valid in the workplace, subject to reasonable medical or religious accommodations. A federal judge recently relied on the EEOC’s guidance when dismissing a lawsuit filed by more than 100 nurses and other healthcare workers who objected to their employer’s mandatory vaccination policy.
The EEOC’s guidance is consistent with the needs of a country still in the midst of vaccination rollouts and desire for increased participation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have stressed that vaccination status is important and relevant for determining whether masks and social distancing are still needed as companies and organizations open to pre-pandemic levels. Employers choosing to use vaccine requirements may want to make sure their disability and religious belief reasonable accommodation request processes are legally compliant and supported by clear communication and documentation.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the EEOC guidance and other COVID-19-related issues, and will post updates in the Ogletree Deakins 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.