South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed the law into law House Bill 3126which has implications for public and private employers who continue to require South Carolina employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Public employers in the state of South Carolina are prohibited by law from requiring individuals to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Likewise, state schools cannot require participants to be vaccinated. Private employers in the state can mandate vaccination, but they must broadly allow religious and medical exemptions (explained below).
The law prohibits places of public accommodation (such as restaurants, hotels, theaters and concert halls) from requiring guests to be vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination for entry.
Federal contractors are exempt from the requirements of the law.
The law also symbolically declares any federal vaccination mandate unconstitutional and unenforceable in the state of South Carolina.
Private employers implementing a vaccination mandate are required by law to recognize religious and medical exemptions.
To claim a religious exemption, an individual need only “provide his [or her] employer with a short and clear statement” indicating that the vaccination requirement violates a tenet of their deeply held religious belief.
Medical exemptions may include the presence of antibodies, a prior positive COVID-19 test result, or pregnancy. The law is silent on how long previous positive test results or antibody tests can exempt employees from an employer’s vaccine requirement.
Independent contractors, non-employee vendors, and other third parties simply providing employers with goods and services should be excluded from an employer’s vaccination mandate. The law also allows private employers to offer incentives to employees who choose to be vaccinated.
The law provides that employees dismissed or suspended or who suffer a reduction in salary for non-compliance with the vaccination obligation imposed by the employer are entitled to unemployment benefits.
COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act
The new law re-enacts an earlier law, the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act, passed in May 2021. The law provides employers with immunity from lawsuits alleging that their employees or bosses contracted COVID-19 at the workplace. work, as long as the employer is taking reasonable steps to follow public health guidelines at the time.
The law originally applied retroactively to claims filed between March 13, 2020 and June 30, 2021. The new law extends this period to December 31, 2023. (For more details on the Liability Immunity Act related to COVID-19, see our articles, South Carolina Governor Signs COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act and South Carolina Senate passes COVID-19 immunity from liability law.)
© 2022 Jackson LewisNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 137