Can businesses ask about your COVID-19 vaccination status?
DETROIT (FOX 2) - Michigan's current mask mandate allows vaccinated people to be inside without a mask. However, there have been questions about how it can be proved that a person has or has not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
More: All Michigan COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted July 1
Some people have been citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly referred to as HIPAA, when arguing that asking about someone's vaccination status is not allowed. Some people have said HIPAA prevents them from sharing their medical information, such as whether they received a vaccine.
However, this is not protected by HIPAA.
"HIPAA only governs certain kinds of entities – your clinician, hospital, or others in the health care sphere. It does not apply to the average person or to a business outside health care. It doesn’t give someone personal protection against ever having to disclose their health information," said Kayte Spector-Bagdady, the chief of the Research Ethics Service in the University of Michigan's Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine.
According to health officials, businesses have the right to ask about vaccinations, and they are not violating the law when they do so.
"Institutions rarely have the right to require that you actually get vaccinated, but if you want to work somewhere in particular, or want others to provide you services (such as schools, or businesses, or travel), they might have the right to ask you to provide proof of vaccination first," Spector-Bagdady said.
Some businesses have decided to keep mask mandates in place for all people, while others that are allowing vaccinated people only to be unmasked are doing so on the honor system. There are some businesses, though, that are asking about vaccinations, and, according to Spector-Bagdady, that is their right.
Read More: Michigan health director answers questions about eased mandate
For instance, after the mask mandate was eased in Michigan, the Sports Venue Bar and Grill in Garden City starting allowed vaccinated people to walk around the bar without a mask if they showed they were vaccinated and received a wristband. People were only being asked, not forced, to provide proof of vaccination, and those who wished to not share this information were asked to wear a mask. If they refused, they would not be served.
Even when all of the state's COVID restrictions are lifted, individual businesses and workplaces will still be allowed to make mask decisions, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said while announcing a reopening timeline Thursday.