As more employees consider going back to the office, or are called back by their employers, many are interested to know the vaccination status of co-workers. Employees and employers alike need to learn to navigate the new norms of in-office work in the wake of COVID-19 and vaccination. The simplest answer is that while an employee can ask a co-worker whether they have been vaccinated, they are not entitled to an answer.
Most employers will be within their rights to ask for verification of vaccination before an employee can return to the office or forego the use of a mask. Employers have obligations to maintain the safety of their workplace, and that entitles them to ask for certain information, while keeping in mind relevant privacy laws. Employees, however, do not have these obligations and therefore do not have the right to demand an answer about the vaccination status of co-workers.
An employee that is pushy about knowing the vaccination status of co-workers may force someone to reveal a disability that is preventing them from being vaccinated. Others may have religious grounds or other circumstances that prevent them from being vaccinated. These types of circumstances may give rise to discrimination and harassment complaints, or other workplace disputes.
Employees should only ask the vaccination status of co-workers casually, and should not prod for more information where a co-worker is reluctant to comment. Better yet, employees should be able to trust in the safety policies put in place by their employer to ensure that the proper precautions are being taken. Where an employee trusts these safety policies, they should not feel the need to take it upon themselves to determine whether a co-worker is unvaccinated.
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Author: Rachel Patten