SAN ANGELO, Texas — Senator Bettencourt questioned if HISD’s leave policy would make any additional COVID-19 Specific paid leave a “vaccine passport”
Senator Paul Bettencourt requested the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, to review the legality of HISD’s Covid-19 leave policy as well as the opinion received from Attorney General Paxton. The policy adopted by HISD for the 2021-2022 school year offered a maximum of 10 additional paid sick days for staff who were full vaccinated and those with medical exemptions, however those who did not have the vaccine were made to use their personal leave should they have tested positive for COVID-19.
“The Attorney General Opinion recognizes the obvious that in Texas because of Governor Abbott’s EO GA-39 and SB 968, ISDs cannot give extra leave for employees using documentation requiring a “vaccine passport”. It’s up to the TEA to look at enforcement rules and to prevent this from occurring. This is a simple fairness issue,” stated Senator Paul Bettencourt.
Bettencourt requested for the AG to review this after SB 968 was passed and Abbott’s Executive Order GA-39. Paxton’s office responded with the belief that the policy constituted a vaccine passport stating, “A court would likely conclude that, by offering additional paid leave only to those employees showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a medical exemption, the Houston Independent School District’s COVID-19 paid leave policy violates Executive Order GA-39. Any standard documentation that certifies an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status constitutes a “vaccine passport” under subsection 161.0085(b) of the Health and Safety Code.” This opinion applies to any TEA enforcement of this issue.
“Proud to see SB 968 once again protecting Texans from vaccine passports of any kind,” stated Senator Lois Kolkhorst.
In addition to this Paxton said that HISD’s Covid-19 paid-leave policy does not, on its face, violate an employee’s medical privacy rights, but clarified “HISD is a covered entity under the Texas Medical Records and Privacy Act and must comply with its provisions. Any information related to the vaccination status of an employee would be covered as “protected health information” under the TMRPA (as the statute adopts the federal definition) and treated accordingly”. Subsection 161.0085(b) does not permit a government entity to issue nor share standard documentation that certifies an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status for any purpose other than for health care. Sharing information for an employment
matter (or any other non-healthcare-related purpose) would not be permitted under this statute. As written, subsection 161.0085(c) prohibits a business from requiring the submission of such
documentation from a customer.