Just The Vax: Tricky Policy Questions Follow Employer Vaccination Efforts
How do we encourage vaccinations? How do we talk about vaccinations? As the nationwide vaccination campaign accelerates, many employers have questions about many of the finer points of the process, especially when it comes to human resources matters and respecting employee privacy concerns. While it’s generally considered legal to require employees to get vaccinated, as long as key legal exemptions are taken into account, encouraging vaccinations has its own legal quandaries.
On April 21, President Joe Biden asked corporations to encourage vaccinations and incentivize employees to take a day off to get it. Employers with fewer than 500 employees can now utilize a tax credit to cover part-time off benefits for employees getting vaccinated, up to $511 per day.
"No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated," reads a White House fact sheet released on April 21.
This announcement doesn’t help companies that have offered their own incentives to employees, or plan to, and worry about whether they would violate nondiscrimination laws. Many corporations have been hesitant about vaccine-related policy for this reason, and reportedly some are awaiting a response from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before making a decision. Crowell & Morning counsel Christine Hawes told HR Dive that while companies can ask about whether or not an employee got a vaccine, they need to be careful with follow-up questions. Additional queries such as why someone didn’t get a shot, how it went and if they had side effects can run afoul of some medical privacy laws.