Can a Business Legally Ask if You’re Vaccinated? It’s Complicated
The answer may surprise you.
As New York has started to lift the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people across the state, there seems to be some confusion about whether or not places of business can ask customers to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or not. Some have claimed that asking anyone for information like this is violating HIPPA laws according to News 10.
HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was put in place to protect people that don't want healthcare providers sharing their medical conditions with others. The law strictly applies to healthcare providers including hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, insurance companies and billing agencies but what about restaurants and other places of business?
Maureen McGlynn a healthcare attorney in Syracuse, New York told News 10 that, "Other types of entities, like restaurants, like this law firm, like the grocery store, are not HIPAA-covered entities under the HIPAA law and their actions are generally not governed by HIPAA." McGlynn also said that she gets many calls from people who think their HIPAA rights were violated, but weren’t, "I think it is misunderstood."
That explanation clears up customers, but can employers ask employees to provide proof of vaccination? Employment lawyer Laura Spring told News 10 that employers are bound by additional privacy restrictions, but vaccines are not covered. She said, "Under anti-discrimination laws, you cannot ask employees about their medical conditions and asking whether they’ve been vaccinated is not a medical-related inquiry."
What if the employee has a medical disability or a religious preference? Spring said that businesses do need to follow both federal and state exemptions when it comes to asking for vaccine status or requiring vaccines. She said, "If someone has a medical disability or they have a religious preference, then the employer is under an obligation to see if they can accommodate that issue."