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Proof of Vaccination
Can we ask people?
As leaders, one of the most critical responsibilities we have is to protect our people.
But it is also our responsibility to protect the firm from being sued, if possible. So, what can we do “in these challenging times,” when we find ourselves stuck in the middle?
I’m fortunate that I work with a lot of technical service professionals—engineers tend to be risk-averse and prefer to make decisions that are supported by facts and evidence. So most people I encounter in professional settings are fully vaccinated. But not everyone is so fortunate.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for dealing with this.
Follow the law. If you have local ordinances, you can use them for guidance. New York City now requires vaccinations in order to use public venues? Good—so will we.
Communicate. I let my people know I’m fully vaccinated early on, so they will know they are relatively safe when they are interacting with me. Because I’m straightforward about it—and because we have built up mutual trust and mutual respect—my people return the favor. Because of psychological pressure for reciprocity, most people will tell you in return, if you volunteer the information.
Make accommodations. I let my people know that we will make accommodations for them and for their families, if they have any concerns. If they are willing and able to provide proof of vaccination, they can meet in-person with clients. If they are anxious about in-person meetings because they have young children at home (who are too young to receive their shots) and don’t want to carry a pathogen home, we have used Zoom so they can participate virtually, instead.
Get the facts. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about vaccinations… and even some misinformation about the legal ramifications of even asking people their vaccination status. Ask your HR manager what’s allowed. HIPAA rules basically protect your medical information from being shared by medical staff without your knowledge or consent—they don’t prohibit people from asking, and employers specifically CAN ask (for more information: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/employers-health-information-workplace/index.html and additional HIPAA info: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html
Set the rules. Post the office rules where people can read them, and provide masks, hand sanitizer, etc. for people who might not have them. If you have enough space, consider having a separate room for the people who need a different environment than the majority—for example, give people the option to work at their regular station while wearing a mask, or to work in the “no-mask required” room, if they really hate wearing a mask (check local ordinances to see what’s permitted). It might feel like the old “Smoking” and “Non-Smoking” sections we used to have in restaurants, and we still have the equivalent concerns of “secondhand smoke,” but if it’s allowed and it keeps your people happy and productive, do what works for your team.
Basically, make sure your people are getting what they need to be safe in the workplace.