Legal Lens: It’s not a HIPAA violation to ask if you’re vaccinated

Legal Lens

The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – Rules and mandates surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations are a point of contention, and likely will remain so going forward. Questioning someone about their vaccination status may prompt replies of, “that’s a violation of my HIPAA!”

Is it a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ask someone if they’ve been vaccinated? The short answer – no.

“It makes it illegal for hospitals providers, doctors, to share a patient’s health information without the patient’s consent. It’s specific and purely applies to health providers and hospitals,” said Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen. “It doesn’t prohibit employers and stores from asking about health care information, including asking if you’re vaccinated.”

Does it violate HIPAA law for a business to ask to see your vaccination status?

“It doesn’t. In absence of state law, there is no federal law that would prohibit them from asking about vaccination status or making rules regarding social distancing or masking,” McNairy said. “A federal law only prohibits discriminatory actions based on gender or race or other protected reasons.”

Does it violate HIPAA for an employer to ask about your vaccination status?

“Similarly, your employer—unless you work at a hospital—is not a health care provider or a doctor, they can require you to be vaccinated or ask for your vaccination card,” McNairy said. “In fact, the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) recently came out with a new guideline that said rules applied equally to all employees and that vaccination status is kept separately from regular employment files, that it was permissible.”

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