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Are Employees Required PTO to Get a COVID Vaccine?

 

Employers in Texas with employees who need or want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine might have questions about offering time off to get the shot.  Are Texas employers required to provide paid time off (PTO) for their employees to get the vaccine?

Texas Law Does Not Require Paid Leave for COVID-19 Vaccines

Texas currently has no state law that requires employers of any size to provide employees with paid time off, or any type of paid sick leave, for purposes of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, even if they require employees to be vaccinated. While it is possible that state law could change in the future, there currently are no such requirements.

This is different from other states, such as California and New York, where employers are required to provide either paid supplemental sick leave for COVID-19 reasons or, in New York specifically, a paid leave of absence for employees for a “sufficient period of time” (of up to four hours) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Further, new guidance from the Illinois Department of Labor suggests that if employers require workers to get the vaccine, then time required to get the shots is most likely compensable under Illinois state labor law.

Federal Vaccine Incentives for Employers

President Biden has announced new federal incentives for employers across the country to get employees vaccinated.  Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, private employers with fewer than 500 employees who voluntarily agree to provide paid sick leave or time off for employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through September 30, 2021, can be eligible for a tax credit equal to the wages the employee would have been paid. If your business takes advantage of those tax incentives, then you will need to allow employees to use paid sick leave or family leave to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Considerations for Employers

So, Texas employers are not required to give PTO for employees to receive the vaccine, but should they?  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued information on the COVID-19 vaccine for employers. The information contains recommended best practices on issues surrounding the vaccine and offers strategies to help employers raise voluntary vaccination rates among their workers. These include tactics that remove barriers to vaccination such as flexible, non-punitive paid leave options for employees to get the shot and for those experiencing symptoms of illness after a vaccination.

Some large employers are offering on-site vaccination clinics to make it easy for workers to get a free vaccine during work hours with minimal inconvenience.  Other employers are offering free ride-share service transportation to vaccination sites.  Some employers are even offering cash incentives to entice employees to get the vaccine, but the legality of this may be challenged per EEOC rules.

Seek Advice from a Texas Employment Law Attorney

If you have questions about employees and the COVID-19 vaccine, seek advice from one of our experienced Texas employment law attorneys. Our firm can help. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC for more information.

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