Can MN & WI Employers Legally Require You To Get COVID Shot?
Can your employer require you to get vaccinated for COVID-19? The answer may be yes, and it likely will be a trend of companies in the future as the COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be fully approved by the FDA.
The Food & Drug Administration is working diligently to get full approval for the vaccines by Labor Day. Currently they are approved for emergency use in the United States. Once it is fully approved, which it will most likely be, more employers and organizations will likely mandate that their employees get vaccinated.
This is a hot topic among many people, even here in the Northland. Essentia Health was the first large employer in the area that just announced that they will require their workers to be fully vaccinated with a two dose vaccine by November 1st. They must get their first dose by Oct. 1.
While the majority of the country has now gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, there are still a vast number of people who aren't getting the shot. It was just earlier this week, under the threat of the rising Delta Variant cases that the United States reached President Biden's 70% vaccination goal - a month late. That number is for Americans who have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
Can Employers Require You To Be Vaccinated Legally?
Employers are in their legal rights to require vaccines as terms of employment in most states including Minnesota. The only exceptions are for those people with conflicting religious beliefs, or a disability that would prevent them for getting a vaccine according to the New York Times. If someone can't get vaccinated an employer then would be in their legal rights to subject them to regular COVID testing and potential mask wearing and other safety measures. Minnesota & Wisconsin are among the states that are "at will" employment. It means they don't really need a reason to fire you.
Lots of employers already are nationally, at least for some of their employees. Tyson Chicken is requiring all of their workers to be vaccinated by October 1. You can read more about their decision on their website press release.
Universities, government organizations, and other entities can require you to be vaccinated. The reason is they are not forcing you to get a vaccine. They are forcing you to get a vaccine if you want to work for them or enroll in their university. Minnpost has some great examples of this.
Doesn't This Violate HIPAA?
This is where it gets interesting. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability & Protection Act. It was put into law in 1996 to protect people's health privacy and establish standards for protecting sensitive patient information.
HIPAA only applies to the following covered entities
- Health Care Providers
- Health Plans
- Health Care Clearinghouses
- Business Associates of Health Care Providers
The CDC has plenty of information on HIPAA and who it applies to, but for the sake of keeping this from getting too long, your employer is probably not violating HIPAA by asking if you have received a vaccine. It would violate HIPAA if they went to your health provider and asked them and they said yes, because your health provider can't disclose that information. The health provider would then be in HIPAA violation.
What's the future going to be like?
Most employers are not requiring their workers to be vaccinated. But, as each day goes by, more and more are starting to. Walmart, Disney, Facebook, Tyson, health care providers, colleges, universities, and more entities are making it a requirement. With a full FDA approval on the way, it's likely that employers will feel more confident in making COVID-19 vaccinations a requirement.