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Who has right to ask if someone has been vaccinated?

Legality of businesses asking for proof of vaccination is tricky, and it's going to be even tougher in Florida
COVID-19 vaccine card and syringes
Posted at 7:46 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 10:28:21-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As more and more Americans get inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine, many yearlong restrictions that have been put in place at the municipal and county levels have been rescinded, perhaps a sign that things are finally getting back to normal.

But one of the most notable changes relates to mask-wearing.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance to allow fully vaccinated people to ditch their masks, the question remains, how does an individual verify that another has been vaccinated?

The most obvious way to do that is by providing the CDC-issued vaccination cards. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state won't require "vaccine passports."

DeSantis even issued an executive order in April prohibiting government agencies or businesses in the state "from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service."

RELATED: How can I prove that I'm vaccinated?

Businesses are required to comply in order to be eligible for grants or contracts funded by the state.

Because of this, many businesses may find it easier just to do away with mask requirements altogether.

Already, Trader Joe's has dropped its mask requirement, saying "customers who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while shopping."

Since the grocery store won't require or request proof of vaccination from customers, there's really no other way to verify who is or isn't vaccinated.

Beyond that, though, is the legality of whether a person or business can ask someone if he or she has been vaccinated.

In most states, there is nothing stopping anyone from requesting to see a vaccine card, Dallas-based employment lawyer Carrie Hoffman said.

Outside of Florida, it would be at the discretion of the business to decide whether to check for vaccine cards. If someone were to refuse, a business could refuse service.

But it gets trickier in Florida because of the governor's executive order.

There is also the question as to whether employers can require employees to get vaccinated in an effort to unmask the business.

South Florida attorney Michael Pike told WPTV in March that he believed by businesses requiring employees to do so, it would open the door to "way too much liability and the violation of many different laws," including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

But attorney William Julien disagreed, opining that an employee could be told to do so "under the employment-at-will doctrine."

Schools and day cares already require immunization forms in order for children to attend, so there's an argument to be made that asking for proof of vaccination would be no different.

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, associate director of the University of Michigan's Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, said institutions "rarely have the right to require that you actually get vaccinated, but if you want to work somewhere in particular," a prospective employer "might have the right to ask you to provide proof of vaccination first."