Employment Law Insights: How to Use Vaccine Passports Legally
As COVID-19 vaccinations bring us closer to a new normal, law firms and corporations are making decisions around when and how to safely return to the office. Among the issues human resources departments are considering is the concept of a COVID passport.
Barbara Harris, Practical Law senior legal editor of Labor & Employment, Thomson Reuters, shared her perspective on this critical employment topic in Human Resource Executive with What HR needs to know about how to use vaccine passports legally. Harris explored how HR managers should approach vaccine passports and COVID-tracking program implementation in order to make the best decisions for employees.
As Harris explains in Human Resource Executive:
One of the stickier scenarios that HR departments face is the concept of a COVID passport. Simply put, these digital passports would work as a method to track any and all COVID-related metrics, from vaccination status to test results and more. According to Seyfarth Shaw LLC, COVID passports could be required to access certain activities or venues, such as travel, sporting events or indoor concerts or theaters. But from a business standpoint, while the intentions behind passports are good—protecting employees and customers alike—they may present more questions than answers. In addition, they can open employers up to potential liability for unlawful discrimination, privacy torts or violations under the National Labor Relations Act.
As the legal and scientific landscapes continue to evolve, and more organizations consider implementing vaccine passports or similar COVID-tracking programs, HR managers should keep several things top of mind to make the best decision for employees and to protect the employer’s best interest.
Harris examines the rights of employers and employees, noting “employers generally are within their rights to require their employees to get vaccinated and to implement a COVID passport program,” though there may be restrictions in certain jurisdictions. Also, she addresses how companies can accommodate employees who are exempt from vaccinations, and highlights the critical HR issues to consider in ensuring compliance with local laws around vaccine passports as well as “how to keep employee morale consistent and, ideally, on an upward swing.”
Read Harris’ insights on how businesses can set up for success as they welcome their workforces back in Human Resource Executive.