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It's not a HIPAA violation to ask if employees are vaccinated, experts say

Vurus Outbreak New York Vaccine
Posted at 1:20 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 16:22:10-04

As companies start requiring workers to be vaccinated, some are wondering whether it's legal for companies to ask about vaccination status.

Some are citing HIPAA, short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects personal health information from being shared by a health care provider.

But workplace legal experts we spoke with say that's not really something that can be applied in this case.

“It’s not going to protect or prevent an employer from asking you, because an employer is not being defined as what's called a 'covered entity' under HIPAA, which is usually a health care provider or an insurance provider,” said Kristin White, a workplace safety partner with Fisher Phillips.

The only way this really could be considered a HIPAA violation is if your boss or company called up your doctor and asked about your vaccination status and your doctor shared it.

Generally, there is nothing stopping companies or employers from asking you about your vaccinations, but it is possible that individual state laws say otherwise.

The Society for Human Resource Management says employers should only ask about vaccination status if it is relevant to the job.

And even then, a worker does not need to share their status. But the company will need to make accommodations for that person.

“What we've advised employers in that situation is just to treat the employee as unvaccinated with respect to safety policies,” said White.

There are also questions about whether employers should require proof of vaccinations.

Just this past December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that no federal laws would be violated if an employer asked for proof.