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The legality of proving your vaccination status in Oregon

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Posted at 3:37 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 20:36:58-04

ONTARIO, Oregon — The Oregon Health Authority is asking businesses that want to loosen mask mandates ask for proof of vaccination for customers and employers wanting to go without a mask.

Businesses are allowed to ask, but not all businesses will or are able to in Ontario, Oregon.

Jason Jungling is the owner of the Plaza Inn Restaurant in Ontario and is asking customers and employees to wear a mask for a little longer. But enforcing it can be a different story.

"Nobody has the time, we're really struggling with staffing," Jungling said. "Staffing has been a huge problem. I've had three people quit: one quit Sunday, one quit Monday, one quit Tuesday. To try and have someone stationed at the front door is asking too much for any business at this point. We're all going through the same thing."

Jungling said to his knowledge, no other businesses in Ontario are asking for proof of vaccination.

With Oregon asking for proof of vaccination, we asked Senior Health Care Attorney J. Kevin West, a shareholder at Parsons, Behle & Latimer, can businesses ask for vaccination status?

While Oregon official's request to show proof of vaccination has sparked tension, businesses are allowed to ask.

"This is not an invasive question at all, it's not asking someone's medical condition, it's not asking about a diagnosis or a disability," said Senior Health Care Attorney J. Kevin West, a shareholder at Parsons, Behle & Latimer. "It's a very simple question. Have you been vaccinated? That's really not an invasive question at all."

What about employers, can they do the same?

"Employers are entitled to do that to manage their workforce their entitled to ensure safety of co-workers, entitled to ensure safety of customers and clients so it's a perfectly legitimate question," West said.

Asking anyone for proof of vaccination does not, however, violate HIPAA laws.

"No, HIPAA actually does not apply to this situation at all," West said. "HIPAA applies primarily to health care providers. If the employer is not a health care provider, that's one factor that HIPPA will not apply."

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission said the only time HIPAA may be implicated is if your doctor or health care provider shared your vaccination status without your consent.

Customers don't have to answer the question, but a business could then deny service. The EOEC also said employers can even require vaccinations, and the only way there could be possible violations if it led to discrimination against legitimate exemptions against the vaccine.

In April, Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order, banning vaccine passports in Idaho or asking for proof of vaccinations. According to his executive order, that applies to state services or facilities, as well as state departments, agencies, boards or commissions. It did not cover individual private businesses.