California County Orders Businesses to Track COVID-19 Vaccination Status of All Employees

California County Orders Businesses to Track COVID-19 Vaccination Status of All Employees
Tina Lopez receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisc., on May 2, 2021. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Health authorities in Santa Clara County, California, are now requiring businesses to determine the COVID-19 vaccination status of employees.

An announcement posted on the county's website this week says: “All businesses and government entities must ascertain the vaccination status of personnel and must comply with the rules for personnel who are not fully vaccinated, as required under" a recent county order.

The order does allow an employee to decline to reveal their COVID-19 vaccination status with their employer. If the employee declines to provide the information, the business “should assume the employee may be unvaccinated and follow State and local requirements for unvaccinated employees.”

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus.

The order raises obvious privacy questions.

A Bay Area-based lawyer, Sandy Rappaport of Hanson Bridgett, told the Mercury News that employers generally must keep vaccination statuses of employees confidential, noting that the new order “seems to mandate that employers disclose employees’ vaccination status” because unvaccinated employees would have to wear masks at work.

“This order does go farther than what most employers have been doing, in that it requires employers to collect the information by either reviewing an employee’s vaccination card or having an employee complete a self-certification form, and the employer has to maintain records of what has been reviewed,” Rappaport told the paper, saying that if an employee refuses, their bosses have to—under the order—keep asking them their status every two weeks.

“It’s a bit onerous, and the two-week turnaround for having to get it done is quite short,” she said.

Some have questioned whether the order violates the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

"That would not prevent, in my opinion, an employer from asking their employees, 'Are you vaccinated?'" said Don Polden, a Santa Clara University law professor, according to NBC4. Polden then suggested that some businesses might fire unvaccinated employees due to the order.

But county officials, in the order, claim that HIPAA doesn't apply in this case.

“No. HIPAA applies to certain entities, such as healthcare providers and health plans, and what protected health information they can share about their patients or members under what circumstances. HIPAA does not govern what information employers may request from their employees," the order read.

The deadline for determining the vaccination status of a worker is June 1, according to the order. Employers are told to ask their employees to determine their vaccination status every two weeks and submit it to the county.

While some other states have outlawed the practice of tracking workers' vaccination status, California has not.

County officials didn't immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for additional comment.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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