Business-Minded Legal Solutions

What should you ask your employees about COVID-19 vaccinations?

Many legitimate reasons exist why employers want to know whether, when or how their workers receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

The information could affect scheduling and protocols for work spaces and would inform managers whether employees should continue to work remotely. It could even impact whether and when closed businesses should reopen.

Proceed carefully when gathering data

In most cases, experts agree that businesses can ask their employees whether they have gotten a shot. But, requesting anything more than that can create risks for employers, especially when doing so may inadvertently require an employee to reveal a disability or underlying health condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated health care workers and professionals for the first round of shots, along with people with high-risk medical conditions. Asking a worker when they received the vaccine could single them out for a health-related problem.

Requesting health information that sheds light on a genetic illness or other conditions could violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which became law in 2008. The law prohibits using genetic information, including a person’s medical history, when making decisions over hiring, firing, compensation, advancement and other employment conditions.

Craft broader questions regarding the vaccine

A better way to proceed is to adopt questions that don’t ask the day or month that an employee received their vaccination. Instead, ask something like:

  • “Has it been at least two weeks since you received the vaccine?”

You can also ask them if they’ve received the second booster shot, but again avoid asking for a specific time period.

Don’t push for details if a worker declines the vaccine

Resist the urge to demand an explanation if a worker says he or she is not getting vaccinated for COVID-19. It could be due to a medical condition or a religious objection. Either way, asking them for a reason could subject you to a possible discrimination lawsuit.

Each person given the vaccine should receive a vaccination card. You can request a copy of the card as proof that they’ve been vaccinated. However, this is confidential information and must be kept separate from a worker’s personnel file as outlined by the Americans With Disabilities Act. It’s advisable to consult an experienced business law attorney before collecting this information.