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Tennessee Expands Employee Protections Relating to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

19 Apr


Update Applicable to:
All employers that require COVID-19 vaccinations in the state of Tennessee.

What happened?
On March 11, 2022, Governor Lee signed Senate Bill 1823 (SB 1823) into law, which expands protections for employees who are subject to employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

What are the details?
Effective March 11, 2022, the new Tennessee law provides that:

[a]n employer that requires a person to provide proof of vaccination or requires an individual to receive the COVID-19 vaccine must grant the person an exemption to the policy if:

  1. the person provides a valid reason for a medical exemption supported by a statement that has been signed and dated by a licensed healthcare provider; or
  2. the person states that the person has a religious belief that prevents the person from complying with the policy.

For an exemption based on religious belief, the law prohibits the employer from requiring an individual to provide further proof beyond their initial statement to be granted an exemption. Notably, unlike federal law, there is nothing in this new law that enables employers to deny such exemption requests because the exemption would cause undue hardship for the employer or otherwise create a direct threat to the employee or others in the workplace.

Employers also are required to provide a response to requests for an exemption within two business days and must not deny a request without a written explanation explaining why the request was denied. The law further prohibits employers from discharging, threatening to discharge, or reducing the compensation of a person who requests and is granted an exemption.

For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill 1823 (SB 1823)

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and review their COVID-19 vaccination policies to be in compliance with the new law

Need help understanding how changes to employment laws will affect your business?

Learn more about how Vensure's Tennessee PEO services can help you navigate complex employment laws and keep your business compliant.

This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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