Pandemic protocols are running smack up against employee privacy protections as U.S. workplaces attempt to adapt to the new normal. And restaurants are caught squarely in the middle.
New guidelines from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, along with emerging state guidelines, indicate that restaurant managers will need to have one set of work rules for those vaccinated against COVID-19 and another for the unvaccinated.
Rule-makers are paying special attention to bars and restaurants because of the close proximity of patrons and servers. In an ideal world, all patrons and all employees would be vaccinated and mask and spacing requirements would no longer be in force. But the reality for managers of these establishments is that not all employees are vaccinated.
Worse, their lawyers have been reminding them for years that they can under no circumstances examine the health records of employees or ask them questions about their medical histories.
With OSHA “recommending” that restaurant managers segregate workforces by the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, managers face a dilemma. How to determine who is and who ain’t, without breaching health record privacy protections?
Currently, there is no clear process for determining which employees have been vaccinated and which have not. While those who have been may be more than willing to say so in order to get back to work, the unvaccinated have no incentive to reveal their status.
The employer cannot assume that someone who keeps silent on the issue has not been vaccinated. Thus the conundrum.
Our thinking? It may be best for restaurant managers to maintain basic COVID protocols rather than attempt to determine vaccination status.
Of course, if your competitor lifts all restrictions and you don’t, you may not only lose revenue, but employees. Another unexpected consequence of the worldwide pandemic.