October 5, 2021

HIPAA does not prevent employers from requiring vaccination, status disclosure: HHS

McKnight Senior Living 10/5/2021

Employers have the right to require employees to be vaccinated and can ask employees their vaccination status, according to new federal guidance.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights issued guidance Sept. 30 related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule, which applies to disclosures and requests for information on vaccination status, including on COVID-19 vaccines.

The Office for Civil Rights clarified that the HIPAA rules do not prohibit employers from requiring employees to disclose their vaccination status. 

HIPAA rules apply only to covered entities and business associates, including health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers that conduct standard electronic transitions, according to the guidance. The privacy rule does not apply to employers or employment records. 

And even when HIPAA applies, the privacy rule only regulates the use and disclosure of protected health information, not the ability to request information. The privacy rule also does not apply when an individual asks a company whether its workforce members are vaccinated.

“Federal anti-discrimination laws do not prevent an employer from choosing to require that all employees physically entering the workplace be vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide documentation or other confirmation that they have met this requirement, subject to reasonable accommodation provisions and other equal employment opportunity considerations,” the Office of Civil Rights wrote.

The rule does, however, require employers to keep employee vaccination information confidential and stored separately from personnel files, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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