TAMPA (WFLA) – In a move to send the country back toward pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased the indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,” President Joe Biden said, summarizing the new guidance and encouraging more Americans to roll up their sleeves. “Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do.”
The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
But many are wondering if their employers have the right to ask if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine or request proof of the shot?
Companies including Delta have implemented new rules requiring new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Monday.
The airline won’t impose the same requirement on current employees, more than 60% of whom are vaccinated, a Delta spokesman said Friday.
Jascha Clark is a shareholder at Ray Quinney & Nebeker, a law firm in Salt Lake City. he says there is guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, on this topic.
“Employers may ask employees if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 and may also ask employees to provide proof of vaccination, and the reason that this is allowed is because the EEOC generally prohibits inquiries that are disability related,” he explains.
Clark says he has been counseling clients that employers really do have a legitimate business reason to keep track of employees who have been vaccinated for safety reasons.
“Employers can then use this information, together with the risk of transmission by people who’ve been vaccinated, to inform decisions about reopening and expanding the number of individuals in the area and that sort of thing.”
But does asking for proof of vaccination violate the Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, more commonly known as HIPAA? Clark says it doesn’t.
“Generally, HIPAA prevents healthcare providers from sharing information. Here, you’re asking the employee themself to provide the information and so it’s their information- they’re able to share it if they want to,” he states.
But could an incentive be the way to go for employers?
A survey by Jobvite’s 2021 Job Seeker Nation Report, found that employers who incentivize getting the vaccine helps. Of those surveyed workers who disagreed with vaccine mandates in the workplace, one-third said they would get the vaccine if their employer incentivized them.
Unlike Delta; American, United, Southwest and Alaska airlines said they do not plan to require vaccination for current employees or new hires. But, American Airlines said it will give vaccinated employees an extra vacation day and a $50 gift card.
In a survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, more than 75,000 unvaccinated people were interviewed, and about a third of them said a cash payment of as much as $100 would make them more likely to get the COVID-19 shot.