As more people return to their workplace after more than a year of remote work, a question you might have (but are unsure how to ask) is, "Did my coworker get their COVID-19 vaccine?"
HuffPo reports employers are allowed to ask for proof of being vaccinated, but can an employee ask a co-worker their status? The website reports yes, you can inquire, but also warns about asking for too much information and notes, "You can ask your peer-level co-worker if they’re vaccinated, but they also have the right to refuse to tell you."
Employment attorney Donna Ballman says how you respond to their answer will be important.
“It might be discrimination if you harass a co-worker for refusing to answer or if they tell you they aren’t vaccinated,” she tells HuffPo. “There can be protected reasons for not getting vaccinated, including disability, pregnancy, and religion.”
She says if you have a close and casual relationship with a co-worker try sharing your own vaccination status as a way to bring up the subject and if you have a problematic relationship with a fellow employee, she suggests speaking to your mutual manager about it. She also explains that forcing a co-worker to disclose a disability (which can prohibit someone from getting vaccinated) could be an ADA liability.
Human resources consultant Keni Dominguez suggests reflecting on your need to ask a co-work about whether they are vaccinated or not.
“By asking someone about their vaccination status, it seems like it would be more for you to feel better, and to feel safe, and that shouldn’t be what makes you feel better or feel safe. It should be the protocol and processes that your company has put into place before they bring you back, not just someone’s verbal confirmation of their vaccination status,” she tells HuffPo.
She feels addressing your concerns with your company's HR department about the safety of your workplace is more important.
“Instead of focusing on who are the specific individuals in my unit or my department that do or don’t have it, it’s more about what safety measures do you have in place, how are you protecting us?" she shares with HuffPo. "If employees have a high level of trust in their organization, they are more likely to not feel like they have to have these one-off conversations.”