Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Coronavirus Update 3-31-2021: Covid-19 vaccination cards will be required to do lots of things, including possibly even working

According to the Wall Street Journal, Covid-19 vaccination cards are our only proof of vaccination status and will soon be as essential as a drivers' license or passport. With no national or statewide centralized databases of vaccination records, the piece of paper you receive with your vaccine dose is your only proof of vaccination.  

The article suggests that we'll need this record to do lots of things moving forward, such as travel. What about returning to in-person work? Can employers ask for or require that employees provide proof of vaccination?

According to the EEOC, the answer is yes as to the ask. 

Is asking or requiring an employee to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination a disability-related inquiry?

No. There are many reasons that may explain why an employee has not been vaccinated, which may or may not be disability-related. Simply requesting proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination is not likely to elicit information about a disability and, therefore, is not a disability-related inquiry. However, subsequent employer questions, such as asking why an individual did not receive a vaccination, may elicit information about a disability and would be subject to the pertinent ADA standard that they be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” If an employer requires employees to provide proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or their own health care provider, the employer may want to warn the employee not to provide any medical information as part of the proof in order to avoid implicating the ADA.

The question then becomes what does an employer do if an employee cannot provide proof of vaccination? If the vaccine is mandatory and a condition of employment, it can deny access to the workplace or even terminate, provided that it is considering exceptions for employees' disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, and observances. If the vaccine is not mandatory, why ask for the vaccine record in the first place?

We are entering a very interesting era of privacy, including employee privacy. If you are not mandating the vaccine, while you are within your legal right to ask about vaccination status, why would you? Do you really want to catalogue your employees' vaccination status and for what purpose?

* Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer on Flickr [Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)]