New normal: Can employers, businesses require COVID-19 vaccines?


Can your employer require a vaccine?

The short answer is: yes.

As we continue to push toward a new normal, many employers are weighing whether or not to require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to work.

This week Delta Airlines became the largest U.S. company to announce all new employees must be vaccinated. Producers of the Broadway hit Hamilton have also mandated cast and crew be vaccinated.

What rights or recourse to employees have?

If your company requires it, there’s not much you can do about it — with a few exceptions.

“Employers can demand proof of vaccination,” said Harvard Law Professor Glenn Cohen. “You, as an employer, can set conditions for work.”

Cohen is an expert on health law and bioethics.

According to Cohen, while many employees believe HIPAA laws may protect them from having to provide proof of vaccination, that’s just not the case.

“HIPAA is largely irrelevant [in this case],” he said. “Most of these employers are not going to be covered entities under the statutes, so they’re not even covered”

Cohen says HIPAA only applies in health care settings.

“Health information generated in an encounter with a physician [would be covered by HIPAA,” he said. “That’s not what a vaccination card is.”

A new app called iOpen is being developed which will allow people to share their vaccination status directly from the CDC via a QR code. Apps like that may make it easier for people to share their vaccination status with their employers.

“[The mission is] to provide this data to the person to use when they want to use it,” said Blair Wright, the team lead at iOpen. “It’s all about giving the data back to the people.”

There are exceptions: if there’s a legitimate medical reason, a disability, or a religious concern, then an employer can’t mandate you to be vaccinated.

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