WILMINGTON, N.C., May 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Certain jobs classified as essential, such as frontline health care workers, can require vaccination against diseases such as COVID-19. But what about other positions in a business which are not deemed essential? Is it legal for a business to require that they, too, get vaccinated in order to ensure a safe workplace?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) makes it clear that employers can ask their people if they've been vaccinated, and request proof of vaccination. Furthermore, December 2020 guidance from the EEOC points out that employers have the legal right to mandate that employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The details of this guidance point to businesses being allowed to use vaccines to ensure that any employee "shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace."
And even though the CDC actually thinks it's a good idea to have a workplace vaccination program, when it comes to actually requiring employee vaccinations, rules and regulations like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), HIPAA, Title VII, GINA, CCPA, and GDPR require careful navigation in order to mitigate legal ramifications and liability while creating a safe work environment.
"Almost half of all employers are looking to implement a vaccine requirement as a way to protect their people," said Brett Martin, CastleBranch CEO. "But doing so is incredibly complex. Any company with a vaccine mandate must, by law, also have a process in place to accommodate exemptions for medical, religious and/or philosophical beliefs. The regulations are complex – these are waters most companies have never entered before."
These regulations include layer after layer of details, such as EEOC protections for employees with disabilities or religious beliefs under the ADA and Title VIII that would keep them from being able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Employers could not simply terminate these employees because they refuse to get vaccinated, but rather would need to provide them with reasonable accommodation –such as keeping them out of the workplace or having them continue with COVID-19 mitigation programs like restricted facility access, face coverings, symptom monitoring and temperature checks – which all would depend upon them providing their employer with legally permissible waiver documentation as to why they feel they can decline vaccination for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.
Navigating the waiver process is itself difficult, with different rules in different states. According to David Parker, former Interim Vice Chancellor and General Counsel for UNC–Chapel Hill and member of the Infectious Disease Council, each state may have different exceptions to the basic rule that employers may require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Whether your state allows employees to decline vaccination for medical, religious or philosophical reasons, failure to follow a fair and consistent process to evaluate employee vaccination waivers, based on verifiable data, can create substantial legal liability," he said.
In both cases of mandating employee vaccinations and granting waivers, employers need a strict process in place that empowers them to gather proof of vaccination status, as well as exemption request and subsequent reasonable accommodations. But doing so comes with a multitude of logistical, legal, and liability pitfalls along with the expense of re-allocating internal resources, which may very well lack much (if any) experience managing sensitive personal medical data.
But Martin's company, CastleBranch, has developed a solution to help organizations implement their COVID-19 vaccine requirement that takes all of this into consideration. Known as RealVaccinationID.com, the discreet, driver's license-sized cards contain an individual's name, date of birth, address, photo and vaccination or waiver status with a secure QR code allowing the cardholder to present primary-source supporting documentation upon request.
RealVaccinationID.com cards come in two variants – one for proof of vaccination, another to communicate a waiver request. Documentation either proving vaccination status or requesting an exemption is sent to CastleBranch by an individual, and then reviewed by a team of experts prior to the issuance of an approved card. When in hand, businesses are empowered to not only see an individual's status at-a-glance, but also take the appropriate next steps to ensure reasonable accommodations can be made in accordance with relevant regulations.
All data used to create a RealVaccinationID.com card will remain wholly owned and controlled by the individual. Information is not sold or distributed to third parties, advertisers or search engines to ensure private, sensitive data and information is not abused or misused.
"We're working to protect people – to protect homes, businesses and communities," said Martin. "The new normal under COVID-19 has made that complex, but not impossible. We've found a path through the storm that will help keep people safe, keep their private information in their hands, and keep us moving forward as we reemerge from the pandemic."
CastleBranch, an infectious disease screening company, has over two decades experience tracking, reviewing, and storing over 35 million medical records.
For more information visit RealVaccinationID.com.
Located in Wilmington, N.C., CastleBranch is an infectious disease screening and compliance management company serving over 17,700 healthcare programs, tens of millions of individuals, and tens of thousands of employers, schools and healthcare facilities nationwide by verifying identity, tracking over 35 million medical documents, and helping individuals transition to and through professional life. CastleBranch has 20+ years of experience, employs over 500 team members and has a long track record of providing innovative solutions for complex problems.