If you’re like many people, you’re being bombarded with myths about whether it’s okay for your employer to require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, whether it’s a HIPAA violation, and whether you can be sent home for refusing to wear a mask. This guide explains everything you need to know about employers, proof of COVID-19 vaccinations and more.
Can Your Employer Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination?
Your employer can ask you to provide proof that you’ve been vaccinated in many cases. That may be a surprise to you – many people believe that employers can’t ask you anything about your medical status, but that’s a myth.
For example, your employer may say that you’re allowed to work without a mask on, provided that you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, your employer can ask you to see proof that you’ve received the shot – and if you don’t provide proof, your employer can require you to continue wearing your mask.
Where Does HIPAA Come In? (Hint: It Doesn’t)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, doesn’t come into play at all when it comes to showing proof of vaccination.
HIPAA is one of the most misunderstood statutes… well, ever. It only applies to covered entities, for one thing. Covered entities are healthcare providers that maintain electronic records, health plans, clearinghouses, and business associates that help healthcare providers carry out activities, like third-party billing firms. And covered entities are not allowed to share your identifying health information without your knowledge or consent.
But that’s it. That’s the extent of HIPAA’s protections for patients. It doesn’t say anything about your employer.
Who Can Legally Ask About Your Vaccination Status?
Employers, businesses you visit, schools and just about anyone else can legally ask you about your vaccine status. There aren’t any laws on the books that prevent any of these people from doing so. And along those lines, there are no laws that say you have to answer – but if you don’t, you could face the consequences of your choice. An employer can require you to wear a mask, a business can refuse to serve you, and a school can refuse to enroll you.
What Does the EEOC Say?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirmed that it’s okay for an employer to ask you for your vaccine card (just like it’s okay for a store to ask you whether you’ve had the shot before you can come in without a mask on).
The one caveat to that: Employers need to be careful about asking why a person chose to – or not to – get the shot. If an employer’s attempt at learning why a person made a decision on the vaccine leads to prodding for information about a disability, it could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Related: Mandatory COVID-19 policies in the workplace
Do You Have to Tell Your Employer Whether You’ve Been Vaccinated?
You don’t have to share your vaccination status with your employer if it asks – but there may be consequences if you don’t. For example, your employer may require unvaccinated personnel (and those who decline to say whether or not they’re vaccinated) to wear masks and socially distance from one another.
Asking for COVID-19 Vaccine Proof is Not a Violation of HIPAA
The bottom line is that HIPAA has nothing to do with whether your employer is allowed to ask you for proof of vaccination. In fact, it’s perfectly legal for your employer to ask, and to require you to wear a mask or otherwise protect others if you refuse to provide proof, if you’re unable to vaccinate, or if you’ve chosen not to get the shot.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Your Medical Privacy?
If you need to talk to an attorney about medical privacy, we’re here for you. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below now for your free consultation.