Julie A. Aquino, Esq., Campbell Durrant, P.C. | February 2021
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed, employers are asking whether fully vaccinated employees are required to quarantine after close contact with a person positive for the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the answer is that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, other than inpatients and residents in health care settings, do not need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if they meet all three of the following criteria:
- The individual is fully vaccinated. Full vaccination means that it has been at least two weeks since the person received their final dose of vaccine;
- The individual received their final dose of vaccine within the past three months (and not more than three months ago); AND,
- The individual remained asymptomatic since their current exposure to COVID-19.
Importantly, if more than three months has elapsed from the person’s last dose of vaccine, this exception to the quarantine guidelines no longer applies, and the exposed individual should follow the quarantine guidelines. Furthermore, regardless of vaccination status, persons who exhibit new or unexplained symptoms of COVID-19 must isolate and should be tested for the virus. The Pennsylvania Department of Health continues to recommend that all persons follow COVID-19 prevention measures such as masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, regardless of vaccination status. Employers should closely track any updated guidance from the CDC or Pennsylvania Department of Health to determine appropriate policies and procedures going forward. Information from the Department of Health on COVID-19 vaccination is available here.
Employers also want to know if they can ask employees for a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination record. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers may ask employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination without implicating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Employers must, however, maintain all medical information confidentially and separate from the employee’s personnel file. Employers should phrase any vaccination status questions narrowly to avoid opening the door to unnecessary medical discussions. For example, asking why an employee did not receive a vaccination may elicit information about a disability, thus implicating the ADA. In order to avoid this dilemma, consider instructing employees not to provide any additional medical information when requesting proof of vaccination. If you are considering mandating vaccination for employees, consult with legal counsel to discuss the legal issues involved. As an additional resource, Campbell Durrant recently posted an article, available at cdblaw.com, on the topic of mandatory vaccination.
Finally, employers considering offering an incentive to employees who receive the vaccine should also consult with legal counsel. Incentives for vaccination should be carefully designed to be voluntary, as a mandatory vaccination program will carry additional legal considerations. Significant or “rich” incentives could cause the incentive to be deemed coercive, and thus not voluntary. Furthermore, it is important to be prepared to address accommodation requests by employees who, due to a disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs, are unable to receive the vaccine but nonetheless want the incentive. The attorneys at Campbell Durrant are prepared to assist employers with these matters.