Can Employers Ask You If You’re Vaccinated?
COVID-19 sent workplaces reeling with lockdowns, outbreaks, and layoffs. Now that vaccinations are being distributed, the CDC has relaxed the COVID-19 safety guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.
The CDC guidance and some state mandates say that vaccinated people can stop wearing masks and following social distancing precautions. The problem for employers is finding out who is vaccinated and who is not to protect their business, workers, and customers.
The latest CDC guidance on the pandemic states that people who have been fully vaccinated can resume activities as they did before the pandemic without masks and with no need for social distancing.
Fully vaccinated is defined as receiving 2 shots for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or 1 shot for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Moreover, an individual must wait 2 weeks for the vaccine to take full effect.
Still, businesses can maintain their mask and social distancing rules as desired. A food service business might require masks to be worn until a certain percentage of the average customer base is vaccinated to prevent damaging outbreaks.
Should an Employer Ask If Workers Are Vaccinated?
The short answer, in this case, is that you should ask if it is needed for your business, but you must be careful if you do.
A few schools of thought exist as to whether you should ask if your workers are vaccinated. The first position is that some business owners might not want to wade into the semi-political and legal muck asking about a worker’s vaccination status on a new vaccine.
The second school of thought holds that employers need to know this information to decide how their business operates, but they must carefully obtain information.
If You Do Ask
Should your business want workers to disclose their vaccine status, it must be done under the proper circumstances.
From a legal standpoint, asking someone only for their vaccination status does not violate ADA so long as it does not prompt them to provide other healthcare information about themselves.
Since you can ask, you should know the right way to ask.
Impose Limitations on the Question
It would help if you talked to your employees before asking about their vaccine status. Let them know what you only need to learn about this particular instance of health information and no other data.
That way, if they obtain a card from a clinic that proves they are vaccinated, you do not get any additional information for which you are responsible. You only need their vaccination information.
Create a Way to Secure the Information
Although vaccination status information has minimal protection under the law in most states, the data must be treated properly. It is sensitive information that should be kept on file but also secured.
Utilizing secure digital records (scans of vaccination cards) could prove to be an effective way to keep the vaccine information from falling into the wrong hands after determining an employee’s status.
Potential legal battles lie ahead for the requirement of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the need to disclose one’s status. As such, it is wise to prepare for these eventualities by getting ahead of the curve.
Seek your workers’ vaccination status if you need to, but make sure you only get the required data and then protect it well. Do not be afraid to contact a third-party security provider to help you build the digital database you need to access and secure this vital information.
Be sure to check out our blogs for regular content on everything HR news, best practices, and more!