The very public battle over whether private employers can ban workers who have not been vaccinated and immunity “passports” has continued to pick up speed in the wake of the masking announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the recent battering that Dr. Anthony Fauci’s reputation has taken.
A Gallup poll in May found that while 57% of Americans approved of being required to show proof of vaccination for air travel, sports events and concerts, 55% disapprove of passports for employment, dining in restaurants or staying at a hotel.
The Biden Administration has backed away from vaccine passports, but there exists a lingering suspicion that private companies may require them in a variety of circumstances, which has led to the wave of state laws and governors’ orders banning them.
For example, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on May 24 signed a bill banning businesses and government entities from requiring the passports. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed a similar law on May 7.
Other states have orders or new laws addressing vaccine requirements and banning passports as well. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on April 6 signed an executive order that prohibits public and private entities that receive public funds from requiring proof of vaccination for any COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.
On April 2, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed an executive order prohibiting the use of COVID-19 vaccine passports, citing privacy concerns and freedom as the main reasons for the ban. Businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) also issued an executive order on April 19 to prohibit all state and local governments from requiring people to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status to receive services or enter an area. The ban, however, does not apply to private businesses and healthcare institutions. A similar ban exists in Idaho.
In other states governors have stated their opposition to vaccine passports, including Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Georgia, Utah and Iowa. In many states legislation is pending that would limit or prohibit an employer’s ability to require employees to be vaccinated (or disclose their vaccine status) or protect those who refuse vaccinations.
On the other hand, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) said his state is in the process of testing the technology needed to support a vaccine passport, and that the state has launched a vaccination verification program to support inter-county travel. Other states like Delaware, Colorado and Connecticut have simply rejected any kind of ban on vaccine passports, which leaves the choice up to private businesses.
In March, New York became the first state to launch a COVID-19 vaccine passport, dubbed Excelsior Pass. The digital platform is free and voluntary for New Yorkers to confirm recent negative test results as well as provide proof of vaccination.
As you can see, the political landscape regarding the issue of vaccine passports is changing almost daily. It is up to employers and their human resources professionals to keep up with the laws in your state.