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Is a business asking your vaccination status a HIPAA violation?

May 24, 2021

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(WHAM) – Following New York’s adherence to the CDC guidance relaxing mask wearing for fully-vaccinated people, there is a commonly-asked question that comes up.

Is it a violation of HIPAA for a business to question whether I have a specific vaccination?

First of all, New York is leaving it up to counties and towns to determine whether they want to adopt the guidance that allow people who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Those counties and towns can choose to adopt the rules, but businesses have leeway on whether or not they want to comply.

So far, some are allowing customers to leave their face coverings behind as long as they have their full COVID-19 vaccine and have waited the two weeks for it to reach its full effect. Others are asking everyone to leave their masks on.

Attorneys at Tully Rickney, PLLC said asking why customers are not wearing a mask, or even asking for proof of vaccination, is not a violation of HIPAA. HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a federal health law that aims to keep patient information safe for healthcare organizations.

The law is for medical institutions and insurance companies. It helps to keep them from sharing private medical information.

“So an employer, business owner or random person asks about vaccine status, that’s not covered under any cause of action,” said Erin Killian, an associate with Tully Rickney PLLC.”

Killian added a customer would not be able to claim discrimination if they are asked because vaccination status is not a protected class in New York.

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