About 41% of Red Wing residents think employers should be able to ask about employees’ COVID-19 vaccination status, according to a recent Republican Eagle survey including 92 respondents. Of those, 46 respondents or 50% said they would be willing to share their status.
However, some wonder what the legalities are behind sharing personal information in the workplace and how much an employer can actually ask.
Let’s break it down.
Can an employer ask about their employees’ vaccination status?
Yes. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers can ask their workers if they have been vaccinated or not for COVID-19. They can even ask for proof of vaccination.
However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must maintain the confidentiality of employee vaccination records like all other medical information.
In any vaccine conversation, employers should refrain from asking why a worker didn’t receive a vaccination because the ADA prohibits medical inquiries that could disclose a disability.
Learn more at EEOC’s article titled “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”
Can an employer require all employees to be vaccinated?
Yes. Federal law does not prevent employers from requiring all employees -- who will be physically entering a workplace -- to be vaccinated for COVID-19. This is comparable to companies requiring the flu shot.
However, Title VII and ADA do require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers who refuse the vaccine due to a disability or religious beliefs.
What if an employee refuses?
According to the EEOC, if an employee refuses to share their vaccination status or receive the vaccine after being mandated, the employer will need to assess how much of a health threat that specific worker poses.
Factors to determine threat according to SHRM:
How long the risk will last
Nature and severity of harm
Likelihood that harm will occur
Imminence of potential harm
After evaluation, if a significant threat is determined and no accommodations can be made, the employer currently has the right to fire or ask that person to take a leave of absence.
Does the change in the Pfizer vaccine's approval status affect requirements?
Not really. The Pfizer vaccine being approved only strengthens the employers right to mandate employees to announce their vaccination status and require them to be vaccinated.
What about school districts and other public entities?
According to Education Minnesota, public and private schools are legally allowed to ask the vaccination status of their staff. As employers, public institutions -- including non-school entities -- also have the right to require vaccination of staff against COVID-19.