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Hey, Joe, Are You Vaccinated?

Knowledge Center / Blog

Hey, Joe, Are You Vaccinated?

By The Employer Group - May 10, 2021

As more and more Americans are being vaccinated, we’re all anxious to get “back to normal”. For employers, that may mean having employees back at their regular work locations or meeting with clients. As much as we’re interested in a safe and healthy workplace, there are some serious considerations about asking your employees if they’re vaccinated.

Many employers are wondering if they can ask their employees if they’re vaccinated:  Yes, you may, but there are many outcomes of getting that answer that can be dangerous for an employer. The best approach for many employers may be to not ask if someone is vaccinated. Why? Because getting that information can lead to violations of anti-discrimination regulations and create fear, mistrust and inequality within the workplace.

Asking about a vaccination can open many cans of worms:

  • Knowing if a person has the vaccine is a private matter, and that information must be handled privately and confidentially by employers. Do you have the right people and processes in your organization to manage private information?
  • Asking follow-up questions (Why not? How did it go? Did you have side effects?) could trigger your responsibilities to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example. Are you prepared to do that?
  • Getting vaccinated is not a government mandate. Are you able to show that your need for the information is job-related and consistent with business necessity? And if you’re not mandating a vaccination as an employer – ask yourself, why do I need to know?
  • If someone chooses not to vaccinate because of religious beliefs, are you prepared to interpret the myriad anti-discrimination laws to ensure you do not create religious discrimination?
  • Answering the question may make employees uncomfortable – whether the answer is yes or no – because they value privacy, or because of the stigma the answer carries. This can cause mistrust or fear. Do you want people to be excited to come back to work, or be fearful?

It’s important to understand asking about vaccinations creates a slippery slope if you do not have the full picture of what is allowable, and how additional questions may create discrimination issues and may impact your employees’ trust and engagement.

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