Can My Employer Ask if I Received a COVID Vaccine?

woman receiving covid-19 vaccine

As of April 13, 2021, all adult Pennsylvanians are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As eligibility requirements and availability of the various vaccines have expanded and as more adults receive the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) have been constantly monitoring rules surrounding exposure, isolation, and quarantine.

Current CDC Guidelines

In the workplace and in school settings, this has been a moving target over the past several weeks, and it may seem as though the recommendations and guidelines are changing daily. Generally, the rules for isolation and quarantine for a person identified as a close contact to someone who is positive for COVID-19 have been waived if the close contact meets three criteria points:

  1. You are fully vaccinated. You are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks have passed following the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  2. The exposure occurred within three months of your receiving the last shot in the series.
  3. You have remained asymptomatic since the exposure.

However, if the COVID-19-positive individual resides in your household, then the new waiver rules do not apply, and you will likely have to quarantine. As always, close contacts should follow the directions of DOH in regard to isolation and quarantine.

These points are important to keep in mind as the race between vaccination and a dreaded fourth wave of infection goes on. Last week, Governor Tom Wolf verified that Pennsylvania was in the midst of the fourth wave, but he believed that the pace of vaccinations would win out over the fourth wave. However, with even more recent news that usage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be temporarily paused, the Commonwealth runs a risk of falling behind in that race.

Workplace Mandates

As the Commonwealth expands into this new phase of all-adult eligibility, questions have begun to arise as to whether an employer can require an employee to be vaccinated in order to return to a physical workplace. Initially, guidance from employment commissions suggested that such vaccination requirements would not be permissible. However, as founding partner Dan Lynch recently discussed in his article “With Emergency Approval of a Vaccine, Will I Have to Vaccinate? the EEOC and other commissions have now indicated that an employer may require that employees obtain vaccines before returning to the workplace. 

This raises another question: What information can my employer require that I give about my COVID and vaccination history? This is best answered using the age-old adage of the “5 W’s”:  

  • Who: An employer is permitted to ask each individual employee whether they have received the vaccine. 
  • What: An employer is permitted to ask what vaccine the employee received. 
  • Where: An employer may be permitted to ask where the employee received the vaccine, but this element is unclear, and caution should be used in asking this question. 
  • When: An employer is permitted to ask when the employee received the vaccine. 
  • Why: An employer is never permitted to ask an employee why they did or not receive the vaccine, or a particular vaccine, or any other question that may inquire beyond the information needed to determine that a vaccine has been received. 

The Bottom Line

The key point to the permitted questions is to enable an employer to track employees’ quarantining following exposure to COVID-19. In other words, questions beyond those that identify whether an employee has received the vaccine, the type of vaccine, and the date the vaccine was received will likely be considered improper inquiries into an employee’s medical historyWithout authorization from the employee, these illicit questions could likely land an employer into trouble with its state’s human relations commission and/or the EEOC. 

Pittsburgh Employment Attorneys

The rules regarding vaccinations, quarantine, and employment are constantly evolving. The employment, corporate, and municipal attorneys of The Lynch Law Group can assist you with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your employment and COVID-19 vaccines. 

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