“Can I ask the candidate about vaccination status, or does that violate HIPAA?” Many of Abel Personnel’s clients are expressing considerable confusion and frustration over what they can ask job candidates (as well as their employees) about their COVID-19 vaccination status. Those applicants who are questioned (whether “pro-” and “anti-vax”) may respond, “you can’t ask that because of HIPAA,” or “I can’t disclose that because of HIPAA.”
The short answer is, “HIPAA regulations do not prevent questions about vaccination status.”
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal privacy law originally enacted in 1996. With its since added Privacy Rule, HIPAA only applies to the transmission of patient information by specific health-related entities, such as insurance providers, health-care clearinghouses, health-care providers and their business associates. HIPAA is about sharing PHI, not about having it.
For all other types of businesses and institutions, HIPAA does not apply. There are other state and federal confidentiality laws that may require employers and schools to protect privacy. There are also state laws in effect, being considered or under court review that might limit inquiries of vaccination status; consult legal counsel for current status in your area.
Those questioned may not want to provide vaccination information, but the employer is not at risk to ask (even due to HIPAA).
If it’s okay to ask about vaccination status, should you? And how should you address a response that is not a clear “I am not vaccinated” or “I am vaccinated?” For our recommendations, please click here.