Got your vaccine? Prove it
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, more businesses are beginning to require proof of vaccination from customers. How can your business navigate these tricky waters?
We’ve already established that employers can mandate their employees get COVID-19 vaccines, and President Joe Biden recently required all employers with 100 or more employees to make sure their workers receive the vaccine or have a COVID-19 test weekly.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) notes that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is constantly shifting as the pandemic evolves, and while vaccination rates are on the rise, dangerous variants mean we’re not out of the woods just yet. Due to these conditions, more companies are now requiring proof of vaccination from their customers.
How can you, as a business owner, navigate this phase of the pandemic? If you want to require proof of vaccination from your customers, what should you know? BBB recommends the following tips to help you develop and implement a plan:
Come up with a plan. So far, the federal government has decided against a unified vaccine passport program or requirement, which means you need to think about how you will verify your customers’ vaccination claims. You may decide on an honor system, where you simply ask the person if they are fully vaccinated, or you may ask to see the person’s CDC vaccination card — either the hard copy of a photo of the front and back — for more concrete proof. States like New York and California have created programs that allow consumers to show proof of vaccination with digital vaccination cards, but Wisconsin currently has no such program.
However, the Wisconsin Immunization Registry allows users to look up their complete vaccine history in the state and is a reasonable alternative to allow customers to show proof of vaccination. People can easily bookmark the site on their smartphones and access it if they don’t have their original vaccine card or a photo of it handy.
Consult with your legal counsel. Since local and federal government guidelines and recommendations are constantly changing, it is wise to speak with legal counsel before implementing any vaccination mandates. Your legal advisors can help you make decisions that will protect the health of everyone involved, without violating their rights.
Clearly communicate your policies. Once you determine your policy, make it known to your employees and customers. Clear and consistent communication will help everyone understand your expectations. Be sure to post signs at your physical place of business, as well as digital reminders on your website and social media channels.
Give employees extra training. If your employees deal with customers in person, give them the training they need to respectfully explain your vaccination policies and help customers to comply. Be sure employees understand how to handle potentially violent situations, especially if you live in a community where attitudes toward the vaccine are not favorable. Training will give your employees confidence and let them know you care about their health and safety.
Protect your business reputation when requiring proof of vaccination from customers. As a business owner, you may require proof of vaccination from customers who come to your business in person. However, to avoid accusations of discriminatory practices, it is wise to implement alternatives for members of the public who cannot get vaccinated or who have chosen not to.
Alternative services could include curbside pick-ups, online sales, and outdoor dining areas. If a customer won’t agree to the alternative methods you offer, you may then refuse service on the grounds of health and safety concerns. In addition, private businesses may continue to require customers to wear a mask and social distance, regardless of their vaccination status.
Learn to spot fake vaccine cards. Fake vaccine cards are on the rise, but there are a few tell-tale signs that can help you and your employees spot them. First, make sure all the information is filled out and the vaccination dates align with the timing each vaccine became CDC approved. Second, for those who received a two-dose vaccine with a few weeks between each dose, it makes sense that there should be two sets of handwriting on the card. Both fields filled out in the same handwriting could be a red flag. Third, watch out for fully printed cards since most care providers fill out the information by hand.
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