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