Know your rights: Do you have to show employers, businesses COVID vaccination card?

Businesses are starting to make decisions for employees and customers about whether to require proof people fully vaccinated or not.
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 11:28 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Businesses are starting to make decisions for employees and customers about whether to require proof people fully vaccinated or not.

The Louisville Bar Association hosted a “Know Your Rights: COVID Vaccine” chat on a Zoom call Tuesday night that was streamed on Facebook Live. They tackled questions about vaccine development, rumors about what the vaccine does, and what employers’ and employees’ rights are regarding the vaccine.

Demetrius Holloway, an attorney at Stites & Harbison, said early on when the vaccine came out, in healthcare, it was allowed and required for employees to get the vaccine, especially when interacting with patients.

Holloway said the protection for employees not getting the vaccine is primarily religious beliefs and/or medical conditions that could put them at risk if they got the vaccine.

Holloway also said employers can require it, but there are a lot of factors to think about such as compensating an employee for the time to get the shot or potential allergic reactions on the drive back in a company vehicle.

“You can try to enforce that, but there’s a lot of problems I think you have to be prepared to deal with, primarily worrying about the religious and/or health-related basis for not participating,” Holloway said.

If an employer doesn’t require employees to get vaccinated but is encouraging it and asks an employee if they have been vaccinated, Holloway said an employee can tell their employer.

“Yes, actually, I think you can tell them. You should tell them,” Holloway said. “It’s a legal question to ask the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], has said so, because they’re merely asking that information for safety purposes for making sure that the work environment that you are in are safe.”

He said employers have to be careful handling those conversations, especially if an employee feels they are being compelled to disclose a serious medical condition.

Holloway explained that in most cases, outside of those with serious medical conditions, an individual’s vaccine status is not considered protected health information under HIPAA.

As for businesses asking customers for proof, people have the right whether or not to disclose if they’re vaccinated or not.

At the same time, businesses have a right to require masks or ask for proof.

“If you’re not masked or you’re not trying to be social distanced, I think you can say okay where is your vaccination card? Do you have proof of vaccination, etc?” Holloway said.

Those are all types of questions businesses are having to think about as restrictions will be lifted in Kentucky in June.

For the first time in over a year, Josh Johnson at OrangeTheory Fitness in the Highlands worked out without a mask on Tuesday.

“It was nice to be able to go a little harder than I have been,” Johnson said.

After the CDC’s decision, now fully vaccinated people at Orangeatheory don’t need to wear a mask working out. Johnson said they changed their guidelines on Friday after Governor Andy Beshear’s press conference.

“When I came into work on Monday after we changed the rules, I was like wow I see a lot of faces for the first time in over a year!” Johnson said. “Which has taken some adjustment but we’re enjoying it so far.”

Orangetheory will not be requiring proof from members who are fully vaccinated.

“Obviously, we’re very excited to lose the masks and get back to a somewhat of a new normal again,” Johnson said. “But it’s been a trying year, I’m sure for all of us, so we’re excited to be able to get over that last little hump.”

Johnson told WAVE 3 News they will stick with the honor system in hopes that people will be honest about being fully vaccinated.

“The heart of Orangetheory is the community feel, community mindset, and for the past year we’ve all put that to the test: very seriously,” he said. “I do think the members here have each other’s backs and are not going to come in if they know they could potentially harm or impact someone else.”

To learn more about rights regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, click or tap here to watch the Louisville Bar Association’s panel discussion.

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