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Why you should be careful talking about COVID-19 vaccines at work

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Posted at 7:57 AM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 07:57:15-04

There are many questions about returning to work, and a lot of those questions have to do with the COVID-19 vaccine.

It turns out, both employers and employees have to adhere to strict rules about what can and can't be asked when it comes to vaccines.

Many businesses are throwing incentives at employees to encourage them to get vaccinated — bonuses, time off, gift cards, food vouchers, even marijuana to those who prove they're vaccinated. But even that has some guidelines.

Amber Clayton, a human resources expert, says employees shouldn't feel like they're being coerced into sharing medical records. She says that would be against guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"They should be careful about the types of incentives they're offering, especially if they're voluntary," Clayton said.

Clayton works at the knowledge center within the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). They have 300,000 members across 165 countries, and many of them are asking many questions.

Clayton says employers first need to decide whether they will require vaccinations or whether to make them voluntary.

If a company sets a mandatory policy, they can ask questions — sort of.

"They should not be asking questions that might elicit disability with regards to vaccinations," Clayton said. "It may be something as simple as their vaccination card showing the date or where they had the vaccination."

A third of their members would rather work remotely than deal with any of it. Communication, she says, is the best policy all around, regardless of vaccination status.

"One of the things they should be doing is educating the employees about what they're doing in the workplace to keep safety measures in place," Clayton said. "Some are still doing social distancing and some still requiring a mask, some are loosening based on local area restrictions being lifted."

Some employers are still weighing in. Some aren't addressing it at all, as everyone tries to figure out what's best for both employer and employee.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering