Employers Can Ask Your Vaccine Status

Your vaccine status is your bosses’ business, says Ed Buckley, Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP’s managing partner.

It’s a question many people have about the Covid-19 vaccine and where their rights end and their employers’ rights begin.

But the situation is clear to Buckley, who says that employers can require employees to be vaccinated and, by extension, to ask their vaccine status.

Recently, two public figures misrepresented people’s rights under HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott cited the 1996 health law when refusing to answer reporters’ questions regarding whether they were vaccinated.

And as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Bill Rankin put it, they were wrong to site that particular piece of law.

“You see, with HIPAA rights, we don’t have to reveal our medical records, and that also includes our vaccine records,” Greene said on July 20.

But HIPAA’s privacy rule prevents “covered entities,” such as health insurers, doctors and hospitals, from releasing a patient’s medical information, absent a signed waiver.

While Greene and Prescott could have told the news media it was none of their business if they were vaccinated, they couldn’t invoke HIPAA as a reason not to disclose it, Atlanta employment lawyer Ed Buckley said.

“The same is true for an employer who inquires whether you’re vaccinated,” Buckley said. “You can’t assert HIPAA. This is a public health issue and workplace safety issue.”

If an employee refuses to answer the question, Buckley said, “an employer can say, ‘You no longer work here.’”

Similarly, many people wonder if their employer can require them to get vaccinated.

Yes, with an asterisk, Buckley says. Employers do have the right to mandate their employees get vaccinated. But there are two exemptions: Those with legitimate health or religious reasons.

“Just being an anti-vaxxer is not going to cut it. If it’s not religious and it’s not medical, you’ve got to do it,” Buckley said of getting the Covid-19 vaccine if required by your employer.

Read more in this AJC article.