Update Applicable to:
All employers who mandate vaccines for their employees in the state of South Carolina
On April 25, 2022, Governor McMaster signed House Bill 3126 (HB 3126) into law, which has implications for private employers that continue to require employees in South Carolina to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
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What are the details?
Effective immediately, private employers can mandate vaccination, but they must broadly allow for religious and medical exemptions.
The law prohibits places of public accommodation (such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, and concert halls) from requiring that patrons be vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination for entry.
Private employers that implement a vaccine mandate are required under the law to recognize religious and medical exemptions.
To claim a religious exemption, an individual need only “provide his [or her] employer with a short, plain statement” indicating the vaccination requirement violates a tenet of their deeply held religious conviction.
Medical exemptions can include the presence of antibodies, an earlier positive COVID-19 test result, or pregnancy. The law is silent on how long prior positive test results or antibody tests can exempt employees from an employer’s vaccine requirement.
Independent contractors, nonemployee vendors, and other third parties simply providing employers with goods and services must be excluded from an employer’s vaccine mandate. The law also allows private employers to offer incentives to employees who elect to be vaccinated.
The law provides that employees who are terminated or suspended or who suffer a pay reduction for failing to comply with an employer’s vaccination requirement are eligible for unemployment benefits.
COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act
The new law reenacts an earlier piece of legislation, the South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act (the Act), passed in May 2021. The Act provides employers immunity from lawsuits claiming that their employees or patrons contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, as long as the employer is taking reasonable steps to follow public health guidance at the time.
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For more information, please see the links below:
What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and make adjustments to their vaccine mandate policies to ensure they are in compliance with the new law.