Arizona Amends its Statute to Provide Further Religious Protections for Employees Refusing the COVID-19 Vaccination

Important Notice: On September 9, 2021, President Biden directed federal agencies such as the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and others to implement rules that would require all federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated. The President also directed the federal agencies to implement a rule requiring all employers who employ 100 or more employees to mandate vaccinations or require unvaccinated individuals to get tested once a week for COVID-19. Employers Council strongly recommends that Arizona Employers wait for the federal agencies to implement their rules, so we have a better understanding of how Arizona’s laws will interrelate with the new federal rules. 

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued a new Executive Order which will provide further protections for employees who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccination due to a sincerely held religious belief. More specifically, the Executive Order amended Title 23, Chapter 2, Article 1 of the Arizona Statutes by adding the following:

“If an employer receives notice from an employee that the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances prevent the employee from taking the COVID-19 vaccination, the employer shall provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship and more than a de minimus cost to the operation of the employer’s business.” A.R.S. § 23-206.

This amendment will go into effect on September 29, 2021, and unlike its federal counterpart, Title VII of the Civil of Rights Acts of 1964 (Title VII), this amendment is going to apply to all Arizona employers regardless of size. However, Arizona will likely adapt Title VII’s religious exemption analysis to this amendment when determining whether an employee’s religious claim to not get vaccinated is legitimate. For more information on vaccinations and the religious exemption under Title VII, please read our Hot Topic: Vaccines and Religious Exemption.

With that said, Arizona employers should still be mindful of Title VII’s religious exemptions regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. Adhering to Title VII will likely mean that Arizona employers are also adhering to the amendment.

Contact Employers Council with questions; we can help.