Amid a work culture described as “increasingly stressful” due COVID-19 policies, one Bank of America employee has also reported that when using the corporation’s vaccination status tool, one must waive one’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rights to proceed.
“If you are like most people and you don’t read the fine print, you are going to miss it,” the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Epoch Times.
After logging into the software to submit the employee’s unvaccinated status, the employee stopped to read the terms and conditions.
“There are repeated claims of confidentiality in the employee communications, but the fine print of the mandatory vaccination tool states that individual HIPAA rights are waived by using the tool,” the employee said.
HIPAA, passed in 1996, protects the medical information of an individual, preventing health care providers from sharing a patient’s information with anyone other than the patient or someone the patient authorized as a recipient.
“I’m looking at this and thinking, they are having me waive my HIPAA rights in order to access this tool, so obviously they are wanting to share my information,” the employee said. “I don’t know who they are sharing it with and why, but I highly doubt it’s confidential if you are waiving your HIPAA rights to do it.”
Though Bank of America has not mandated vaccines for its employees, the employee said there have been implied corrective actions for not getting vaccinated.
The worldwide response to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus changed the workforce landscape in 2020 by first sending people home to work remotely before some employees returned to work in 2021, leaving companies to determine their own risk-mitigation policies around the virus.
Fears over the Delta variant sent many back home and became the platform on which President Joe Biden announced his vaccine mandate policy in September when he directed the Department of Labor to develop a rule requiring all employers with 100 or more workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, or require unvaccinated employees to be tested weekly.
On Dec. 8, the U.S. Senate voted to block Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the private sector as courts had already enjoined other mandates from the Biden administration, including ones for federal contractors and health care workers.
From Optional to Mandatory
According to the documents, employees were required to share their vaccination status by Nov. 1.
“Prior to that it was optional,” the employee said.
However, the employee said, each email leading up to the Oct. 21 announcement states that the vaccination tool is confidential.
According to one email dated July 1, if an employee enters his or her fully vaccinated status “into the confidential Vaccination Status Tool” by Aug. 31, that employee receives $200.
A July 16 memo from Dean Athanasia, president of regional banking for Bank of America, states, “Thanks for confidentially sharing your vaccination status.”
On Oct. 21, it became mandatory.
Terms and Conditions
“But in order to access the tool to share your status, you have to click Next,” the employee said. “If you hit the button, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions. If you decline, the tool shuts down and one could be subjected to disciplinary action.”
In addition to the terms and conditions, one agrees to a privacy notice and the HIPAA Protected Health Information Release Authorization Form when clicking Next.
In the appendix of one of the documents that list the “Purposes For Which We May Collect, Use, Transfer And Disclose Health Screening Information and Vaccination Status,” several reasons are given, such as the promotion of “safe and healthy working conditions of Company facilities,” the “Management of internal business operations,” and for the stated purpose of “complying with applicable local, state, federal or foreign state and/or country-specific laws and regulations, and other reporting requirements.”
The appendix also states that service providers and public and governmental authorities are categories of third parties with whom the information may be shared.
“The appendix basically gives them the permission to share the information however they want,” the employee said. “All they have to say is ‘to promote safe and healthy working conditions’ and under that guise, they can share it with anybody.”
The employee had already been reprimanded after an office camera caught the employee removing their mask in the employee’s office to drink coffee, a violation of what the employee said was a rule that requires employees to always have their mask on except in the break room where one can eat and drink.
“I know multiple employees who got vaccinated with the hope that they would not have to wear a mask and stop being pressured,” the employee said. “For about two weeks, that was the case, then, it came out that even if you are vaccinated you have to wear a mask.”
The employee, who remains unvaccinated, said they’re beginning to see what they say is the inevitable.
“I have a family and I’m thinking, ‘I’m about to get fired for not being vaccinated,’” the employee said. “It’s been a stressful time worrying about how I’m going to provide for my family if it goes down that road.”
According to a spokesperson for Bank of America, “The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has said HIPAA does not apply when an individual employee discloses health status information, including coronavirus vaccination status, to an employer and therefore our vaccination status tool does not require that waiver.”