Employers Have A Brief Window To Grant Conscience-Based Exemption Requests

Employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates are the subject of amendments to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.  The amendments will  go into effect this summer, preventing employees from relying on the Act to avoid employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The Act, which was first passed in 1977 to protect health care workers who assisted, or refused to assist, in care services that were “contrary to their conscience,” has recently been asserted in several lawsuits by workers.  The lawsuits claim the Act also provides protection outside the healthcare setting to those who object on conscience grounds to employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Recently, Governor Pritzker signed into law an amendment to the Act which will foreclose these suits.  Given the amendment’s June 1, 2022, effective date, employers face some risk that employees could still cite the law to shield them from punishment for conscience-based objections to COVID-19 vaccine requirements.   Illinois employers who wish to avoid this risk should consider whether to temporarily grant conscience-based exemption requests until the law’s effective date.

If you’re an Illinois employer grappling with how to juggle the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 workplace law requirements, schedule an appointment with us here to talk with us about how we can help.

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Gary Savine is an Illinois employment lawyer and founder of Savine Employment Law, Ltd. in Chicago. Gary regularly advises human resources professionals on recently enacted employment laws.

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