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Is it legal for businesses to ask for COVID-19 vaccination proof? Legal experts say yes

As more mask mandates lift and people get vaccinated, life is beginning to return to normal. However, there's a lot of confusion as we leave some of the COVID-19 restrictions from the past.
As more mask mandates lift and people get vaccinated, life is beginning to return to normal. However, there's a lot of confusion as we leave some of the COVID-19 restrictions from the past.

ROANOKE, Va. – With some mask mandates lifted and more people vaccinated, life is seemingly returning to normal. However, there is a lot of confusion as we leave some COVID-19 restrictions in the past.

One of the biggest questions, perhaps, is whether a business can ask to see proof of your vaccination with your vaccine card, and if that’s legal. Legal experts say yes.

“It’s legal for anyone to ask you any questions sans it being a derogatory comment towards you,” answered Attorney Cerid Lugar.

So, basically, it’s up to you!

Attorney Lugar says there are some stipulations businesses need to keep in mind if they’re requiring customers be vaccinated.

“So long as it’s not on a discriminatory basis, which the law recognizes classically,” said Lugar. “As of now, there isn’t [law] that says you can discriminate or not discriminate on premise of not being vaccinated.”

Not everyone opted out of the vaccine just because they didn’t want it. Some chose not to get it because of their religion or disability.

Another attorney we spoke with says businesses need to keep those things in mind to ensure they are not discriminating against certain groups.

Janet and Richard Burrow are both vaccinated and say asking actually makes them more comfortable.

“I’m not at all opposed to being asked for proof of vaccination,” answered Janet Burrow.

“If I’m in a restaurant and I choose to eat inside, I’d like to know that those that are in there around me are also vaccinated. As well as the workers,” admitted Richard Burrow.

Your vaccine card is part of your medical record, so is asking violating HIPAA?

“HIPAA is with respect to medical providers,” stated Lugar.

Again, Attorney Lugar says an everyday person asking questions doesn’t violate anything.

Alena Yarmosky, a spokesperson with Governor Ralph Northam’s team, says “businesses are free to ask for proof of vaccination, if they choose. However, the Commonwealth will not be requiring a vaccine passport (or other form of vaccine identification) at the state level. Businesses may also choose to continue requiring all patrons and employees wear masks.”

In regards to masks, when the state’s emergency order expires at the end of June it will again be illegal for anyone over the age of 16 to wear a face covering in public.

We asked the Governor’s team about this as well.

“Governor Northam is committed to making sure individuals who are not vaccinated and/or not comfortable going without a mask will still have the option to wear one,” said Yarmosky. “We are currently exploring the best mechanism to do this, but we’re going to make sure folks can continue to wear masks up to and after June 30th, if they choose.”


About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.