Can Your Job Ask For Proof You've Had a Covid Vaccine?

Can Your Job Ask For Proof You've Had a Covid Vaccine?

The Coronavirus pandemic placed employees and employers in some unusual situations. Even as the pandemic winds down, there are new challenges and questions regarding how to handle the obstacles. Lately, one of the biggest questions is whether or not an employer can demand proof of a vaccine. Find out what the laws are and how you should handle a request for proof of vaccination.

Why Wouldn't It Be OK for an Employer to Ask for Proof?

Before we get into this, consider the reasons an employer might not be able to ask for proof of a vaccination. For one, there's the issue of HIPAA. This decades-old policy protects your medical records from public access, and some believe that this includes vaccination records. Originally passed in 1996, HIPAA is a federal law. It keeps "sensitive patient health information" from getting released without the patient's permission. If you don't consent to your doctor releasing your information, they can't legally do so. Just think about how much work it takes to get your medical paperwork transferred between offices.

Now that mask requirements have changed to only apply to those who are unvaccinated, HIPAA has come into question. If an employer doesn't want to place blind trust in their employees to reveal their vaccination status, can they demand proof? If not, how can an employer know that their employees are actually vaccinated and able to work without a mask?

The question is just as valid for employers as it is for employees. If you're an employee, you may not want to share your medical information with your boss. But an employer has the dilemma of trying to comply with laws and appease the public. A business owner may worry that asking their employees for proof of vaccination is breaking a federal law. On the other hand, failing to obtain proof means that their employees could be working while unmasked and unvaccinated.

The Honor System

At this point in time, some employers are using the honor system for both their employees and their customers. But this practice varies and obviously has its downfalls. Not everyone who says they are vaccinated is actually vaccinated.

Unfortunately, there are many misunderstandings regarding the legality of requests for vaccination records. It's difficult for people to decide how to handle the situation without having all the facts. If you turn to the internet, you can find a wealth of information, but not all of it will be true.

The Facts About HIPAA and Vaccines

HIPAA is intended for doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals. Therefore, anyone else can ask you for your vaccination status. There's no law that prohibits them from asking. However, you don't have to comply with their request. The only true breach would be an employer stealing your medical records or a doctor releasing them without permission.

So, HIPAA doesn't mean an employer can't ask you for your vaccine status. There is, however, another law that makes the waters murkier. You may already know that there are laws in place to protect employees in the US from discrimination. Namely, the Americans With Disabilities Act and anti-religious discrimination laws are in place to prevent employers from using unfair practices.

Because there's no precedent for a situation like there is today, it's slightly unclear how to proceed. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer can ask an employee to prove a vaccination. If the employee says they're unvaccinated, the employer can't ask why the employee isn't vaccinated.

ADA Compliance

The reason for this is simple. Asking for proof of a vaccine is not asking for details about a disability. As a result, it's an acceptable question. But asking about reasons for not being vaccinated could result in discussing a disability. As a result, it isn't ADA-compliant.

According to the ADA, an employer is allowed to have a requirement that an employee doesn't pose a clear threat to others in the workplace. If an employer wants to force employees to show proof of vaccination, they must prove that an unvaccinated worker could harm others. They also need to show that the risk can't be reduced or eliminated with an accommodation.

Religious Reasons

If an employee can't get vaccinated because of their religious beliefs, the employer needs to be willing to make accommodations. The only case in which an employer could refuse to hire an unvaccinated individual is if there was no way to provide an accommodation, such as wearing a mask.

Can You Be Fired for Being Unvaccinated

All of the facts apply to the hiring of a new employee. But what happens with current employees? Can an employer fire someone for not being vaccinated? In short, no employer should immediately terminate you for being unvaccinated.

There could be certain local or state laws that give you more rights as an employee. Therefore, it's unwise for an employer to fire someone over a vaccination unless they have looked into the laws. If you were fired for your lack of vaccination, you could speak to a lawyer to learn more.

Wherever you stand on the vaccine debate, you should know that you always have the right to quit and find a new job. If you're uncomfortable being asked about your vaccination status, start looking for a new job. Just make sure you're not too hasty about quitting. Your absence from the workplace could leave a large gap in your resume.

Finding the Right Fit

If you're currently looking for a new job, consider your vaccination status. If you don't want to be asked about your vaccine records, research a company before applying for work. You can usually learn about a company's stance on mandatory vaccinations from their website or social media..

Although the vaccine issue is complicated, you shouldn't let it stop you from finding work. Whether you only want to work in a place that mandates vaccines, or you want an employer who doesn't care about your vaccination status, you can find the right company.

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