Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Coronavirus Update 5-26-2021: Vaccination-status harassment

"I can't believe you got vaccinated. It's an experimental drug that I'm not injecting into my body. Besides, I heard that Bill Gates and the global elites implanted 5G trackers in the vaccine. All the government wants to do is control us, and you're letting them by submitting to these shots. Sheeple!"


"I can't believe you're not getting vaccinated. Don't you care about protecting yourself and others? This vaccine has been tested, vetted, and is safe and effective. We need to reach herd immunity if we want this pandemic to end, and you're not doing your part. Selfish!"

Some version of this drama is likely playing out in your workplace. And it has to stop, ASAP.

For starters, one's choice not to get vaccinated might be because of an underlying physical or mental impairment, a pregnancy (or hope to become pregnant), or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. In any of those cases, harassing a co-worker because of his or her unvaccinated status might cross the line into unlawful protected-class harassment.

Additionally, whether another is or is not vaccinated is really none of anyone's business. As noted yesterday, it's confidential medical information under the ADA (not HIPAA). It's an employer's business whether unvaccinated employees are following the CDC's guidelines and keeping their masks on while at work. But whether they've gotten the Pfizer, Moderna, or J & J jab? Not a co-worker's business. And certainly not something anyone should be harassing or bullying anyone else over. Civil discourse is one thing. Harassment, bullying, and disrespect is another altogether.

It's simply not realistic to eliminate all vaccine-related discourse from the workplace. We've lived with Covid for over a year. With a few exceptions (I'm looking at you, 2020 election and Jan. 6). it's all we've talked about. How can we expect employees simply to ignore conversing about issues such as vaccines for the eight-plus hours a day they are at work?

Instead of banning these discussions, remind employees of your expectations regarding all workplace conversations—that they are civil, professional, respectful, and do not intrude on protected classes. And, if an employee violates these precepts, an employer should (or, in the category of protected-class harassment, must), address the issue.

Discussions over divisive issues need not be nasty, uncivil, or contemptuous, as long as we respect the rights of others to think differently and hold them accountable when they fall short of this standard.

* Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash