With a national push to get people vaccinated against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the issue of personal privacy regarding health care is becoming more prominent. That is especially true in states in which vaccination rates are lagging. However, the federal government recently updated guidelines to help clarify workers’ rights to information regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and whether or not they can be fired for not getting vaccinated.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated guidelines that affirm employers have a legitimate interest in encouraging all workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The need to maintain a safe and healthful workplace generally outweighs individual privacy rights, but medical privacy is especially difficult to overcome.
Rather than deny employers the right to demand vaccination among all workers, the EEOC says employers can encourage workers to obtain vaccinations and share the results. The way in which job providers go about encouraging workers to do so makes a big difference between legal efforts and violating workers’ rights.
Incentives Instead of Coercion
Job providers can encourage workers to obtain vaccinations and share the knowledge of their successful vaccinations with them. The EEOC says workplace incentives are ideal tools for legally encouraging workers to get vaccinated and announce it to coworkers and others. Incentives also are fully legal to encourage virtually all workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Incentives could be financial in nature and generally reward vaccinated workers.
While incentives are acceptable, the EEOC says coercion is strictly prohibited. Incentives essentially enable a worker to choose to participate, whereas coercion forces a worker to participate in violation of federal laws protecting health care privacy.
Coercion essentially tells a worker that unless they get vaccinated, consequences could occur. Those consequences could result in changes in job duties, work hours, or even result in a loss of employment. Coercion instills a sense of fear and could easily trigger a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Vaccination Information Must be Kept Private
When job provides invoke a legal incentives program to encourage workers to become fully vaccinated and share the results, the employer must keep the information private. Although the worker might choose to get vaccinated and share that information with their employer, the employer still has to protect the worker’s private health care information per the ADA.
Many job providers also are offering at-work vaccinations. Many vaccinations require individuals to provide detailed information about their health. That information must be protected, especially if the job provider is the one making it possible for vaccinations to occur while on the job. If a worker feels they are being targeted or discriminated against for not getting vaccinated or because of another issue, they are encouraged to speak to a lawyer.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Workers Understand Their Privacy and Health Care Rights
If you are being coerced into obtaining a full vaccination against COVID-19, our experienced Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can protect your rights. Contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.