Vaccination and Mask Update

“I’d like to make sure all my employees are vaccinated and even continue wearing masks to protect everyone but what can and can’t I do?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Even as more people are getting vaccinated, we still struggle with how to handle the COVID-related questions and policies in the workplace.

Masks are still strongly recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) even after vaccination, unless you are surrounded only by others who have been vaccinated. Continuing to wear a mask protects everyone around you and your company can have a policy requiring masks at work, just like before the vaccinations began. If you have a policy in place but find some employees are not following it, you’ll want to find out why they are not following the policy, ensure they understand it, reinforce your reasons for it, and let them know disciplinary action may follow if they do not adhere to it. Employees won’t take the policy seriously if you don’t.

Conversations about whether or not someone is vaccinated and whether they plan to be are common. In the workplace, you want to be careful about those questions. While employees may chat amongst themselves about it, make it clear employees do not have to respond to other employees who may be casually curious.

Those same questions take on a different tone when they come from anyone in management and shouldn’t be asked casually. Decide why you care about employees being vaccinated. A simple yes or no question about whether an employee is vaccinated if fine but make sure the employee understands you do not want any information about medical conditions.

  • If you have decided you need proof of vaccination, ask only for a copy of their vaccination card and keep it in their medical file. This is confidential information and shouldn’t be shared with others.
  • You cannot treat employees who are and are not vaccinated differently without providing valid justifications for those differences.
  • Do not ask any questions about why the employee has not been vaccinated, how a vaccination affected them, or anything that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. This could lead to you receiving personal medical information that you do not want or need and could put the company at risk.

Keep in mind that carelessly asking about reasons or vaccinations can potentially open your company up to legal obligations under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or even GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act). This is a time when you really want to avoid having too much information about your employees. If you need to know about vaccinations, create a policy and a process for collecting and tracking the information so no one is asking the wrong thing.

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