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UNVACCINATED WORKERS HELPED – Court rulings and new state law

In separate cases the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated one federal vaccine mandate and let another stand.

The court invalidated the federal OSHA rule that would have required workers for employers with 100 or more employees to submit to the COVID-19 vaccine. The court said OSHA’s authority from Congress did not include such a power. In the other case the court allowed the federal mandate on healthcare workers to continue. Mandates imposed on federal workers and federal contractors were not addressed.

Some employers who were imposing or planning to impose a vaccine mandate only because of the OSHA rule may decide to drop vaccine mandates for their employees.  Although the OSHA rule was invalidated, that does not prevent an employer imposing a mandate on its own. Employers such as Tyson and Walmart imposed their own vaccine mandates.


An employee who is still under a vaccine mandate may still apply for a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine.

Additional exemptions have been adopted by a new Arkansas law (Act 1115 of 2021) which exempts workers from a vaccine mandate if the worker has natural antibodies or submits to periodic testing with negative results. The exemptions read:

The specific exemption process shall include options that allow the employee to produce either:
  (1) A negative antigen detection test result or molecular diagnostic test result no more than one (1) time per week showing that the employee is not positive for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19); or
  (2) Proof of immunity for the virus that causes coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) or its variants, including without limitation the presence of antibodies, T cell response, or proof of a positive coronavirus 2019 (COVID23 19) or its variants test, on a basis of two (2) times per year, not to exceed one (1) time every six (6) months, from a licensed healthcare provider.

Will employers honor the state exemptions? Some employers may ignore the Arkansas exemptions and make employees take them to court. There is a good argument the Arkansas exemptions even apply to healthcare workers but litigation is likely.

Workers who are still facing vaccine mandates protect their rights. An unvaccinated worker who has a valid reason for a medical or religious exemption should claim the exemption, and an unvaccinated worker should claim their exemptions under Act 1115.


The legislature needs to do more to protect unvaccinated workers. Ask your state Senator and Representative to pass legislation to provide more protections for workers. They have the right to pass such legislation in the Fiscal Session of the legislature which begins on February 14, 2022. If they do nothing in the Fiscal Session another opportunity to pass legislation won’t occur until January 2023. (Note – the primary election is May 24, 2022)

For information on contacting your legislators see:

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