Can my employer ask for my vaccine card?
As the vaccine rollout continues employers and workers alike are curious about what legal restrictions exist in keeping vaccination status private.
Since April, the percent of full-vaccinated individuals in the US has increased from ten percent, from thirty-one to forty-one percent. Additionally, the percent of adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine increased from fifty-four percent to sixty-one percent. This month, the percent of vaccines distributed to states that were administered hit a record high of eighty percent, meaning that demand is inching closer to the supply available.
In light of these increasing numbers and new scientific data available, the CDC lifted various social distancing and mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals. This has led many workplaces to question whether it is time to adjust their safety requirements. However, these changing rules can be a challenging prospect when employers do not know what percent of their workers are protected against the virus.
Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), the organization many leaders are looking to provide guidance on the topic, has not updated its recommendations since the CDC’s announcement.
Currently, OSHA’s website reads has an announcement that reads
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidance relating to recommended precautions for people who are fully vaccinated, which is applicable to activities outside of healthcare and a few other environments. OSHA is reviewing the recent CDC guidance and will update our materials on this website accordingly. Until those updates are complete, please refer to the CDC guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers.”
What does the law say?
The legal precedent for this sort of situation is in short supply and employers must ensure that they respect their workers’ privacy.
Another federal agency that is tasked with providing safety and equity guidance for workplaces in the US is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). In December the EEOC released a statement that affirmed it was okay for employers to ask about the vaccination status of their workers. Like OSHA, the EEOC guidance was also published before the CDC announcement for fully vaccinated people. The commission is currently in the process of updating its recommendations.
The problem lies in treating workers differently based on whether or not they have received a vaccine or if leaders demand more health data the necessary be turned over. For this reason, if an employer would like “proof of vaccination” it is important that they do not ask for any additional medical information as this could lead to legal and privacy violations. To date, many are relying on OSHA guidance from January that did not outline any guidance on “the permissibility of treating vaccinated workers differently than unvaccinated workers,” but does remind employers that workers who are forgoing vaccination for medical or religious reasons should be accommodated.