Is Requiring ‘Vaccine Passports’ Legal?

COVID Vaccine Passport

Posted on April 13, 2021

Businesses, schools, cruise lines—there’s a growing list of places requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine for employees and customers. But is making a requirement for getting a vaccine legal?


In today’s spotlight feature, we’ll focus on the laws on the books that speak to this issue and the rights individuals have when it comes to requiring vaccines.


What is a Vaccine Passport?

Across the country, different places are requiring employees and/or users of their services to be able to produce proof of a COVID-19 vaccine. This has led to what’s being called a “vaccine passport” that allows an individual to continue using a given service without restrictions. For example, the State of New York created the “Excelsior Pass” that acts as digital proof of an individual’s current vaccine record.


This requirement raises several legal and moral questions. Can the government, businesses, universities, or other establishments require all employees and/or customers to provide their private health information to participate? The answer is, generally, yes.


The power of the government to require vaccines stems from a Supreme Court decision way back in 1905 when the smallpox virus was at its peak. Proof of vaccines is also nothing new. All 50 states have laws requiring specific vaccines for students. In Florida, for example, the Florida Department of Health requires vaccines for children from daycare through high school. So, if places like universities and the armed forces can require vaccinations, what about private businesses?


Requiring Vaccines With Public Vs. Private Institutions

One of the main legal arguments at play with requiring vaccines is whether a place is owned by the government or is a private business. Private businesses can choose to employ and do business with whomever they wish. They can choose to use measures that they see as necessary to protect their employees and customers. This includes requiring vaccines.


There are exceptions to this rule. For religious reasons, health issues, and other reasons, many people don’t want to get vaccines. We’ll explore what protections are available to these people next.


Protection Under the Law

There are a few protections under the law for people who don’t want a vaccine. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says you can’t treat a person with a disability unfairly. This means that there needs to be procedures in place to give a disabled person an equal level of access. If for medical reasons, you couldn’t receive a vaccine, an organization cannot treat you unfairly just because of this reason.


Also, there are many religious protections for individuals and organizations that believe vaccines are at odds with their religion. Most states have laws that let people not get school vaccines when it goes against their religious beliefs. When it relates to your job, treating someone unfairly because of their religion is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.


If you don’t want a vaccine and you’re feeling pressured to do so, it’s a good idea to explore your options and see what protections you have under the law.


Getting Answers to Your Tough Legal Questions

Questions around issues like requiring vaccines can leave you feeling like you don’t have any support. But being our client’s support when they need it most is exactly what we do at Farah and Farah. No matter what legal issue you may be facing, we’ll always take the time to meet with you and see what options are available. Contact us now to get the process started.

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