WLJ Employment Law Update: Key Employment Legislation at the State Capitol


This update was authored by WLJ Labor & Employment attorneys Shelby Howlett and Stuart Jackson

  1. SB 615: The bill to “prohibit the requirement of vaccine passports in Arkansas” passed the Senate and the House (on April 26) by wide, veto-proof margins and will be transmitted to the Governor for consideration. The bill would prohibit all state and local officials and agencies from requiring “an individual to use a vaccine passport” for any purpose. It also appears to prohibit private businesses from conditioning “entry, travel, education, or services” on having a vaccine passport, which is defined as “documentation that an individual has been vaccinated” against COVID-19. There are no exceptions for the healthcare and nursing home industries, and the prohibition would apparently continue in perpetuity regardless of whether the vaccine is fully approved by the FDA at some point in the future. We note the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce opposes this bill.
  2. HB 1851: Stuart’s comment during the recent WLJ webinar that he was sure this bill, which would add to the definition of a safety-sensitive job under Arkansas’ medical marijuana laws, would pass must have been a jinx. The bill was withdrawn by its sponsor a couple days later and appears to be dead. Had it passed, those employees “working with confidential information, including proprietary, financial, or health-related records or documents” would have been classified as safety-sensitive; this would have allowed an employer to prohibit a current user of medical marijuana from holding such a position.
  3. HB 1547: This bill prohibits state and local government from mandating or coercing an individual to take the COVID-19 vaccine for purposes of “education, employment, entry or services.” A process exists for a state-owned or controlled medical facility to be granted an exception — the facility could obtain permission to mandate vaccinations from the Legislative Council. No exception appears to exist for local or county-owned medical facilities, which seems to be a curious oversight. This law would expire two years (not immediately) after the FDA fully approves the vaccine. Both the House and Senate passed this bill, which now goes to the Governor for consideration.
  4. HB 1487: This bill provides immunity from civil liability to businesses and protects them from tort claims relating to the alleged spread of COVID-19 on their business premises or during activities managed by the business. The immunity applies so long as the business acts in good faith while attempting to comply with governmental health and safety directives. Immunity does not extend to anyone who acts willfully, recklessly, or intentionally in the spread of COVID-19. This bill has been enacted into law.
  5. HB 1227: This bill protects employers by clarifying activities that are not compensable for transportation drivers in relation to minimum wage and overtime calculations. The following activities are not compensable: travel to/from the driver’s personal residence, personal activities, and time logged as off-duty or in a sleeper berth. This bill has been enacted into law.