Can (or Should) an Employer Disclose their Employees’ Vaccination Status?
If an employer has collected their employees’ vaccination status (see our article regarding the BC Human Rights Commissioner’s guidance on vaccination policies Here), should they advertise it to the public?
An Ontario-based website “Safetodo.ca” allowed businesses to do just that, listing businesses that had fully vaccinated staff or their vaccination policies. The experiment was short-lived, as some individuals attacked the businesses on the website by leaving negative Google reviews, making false restaurant bookings and sending hateful messages (see: https://epaper.vancouversun.com/article/281865826494551). The creator shut down the website soon after. The polarizing response to Safetodo.ca illustrates how divisive and hotly debated the topic of vaccination is currently.
In BC, while a business may be tempted to disclose its employees’ vaccination statuses to attract clients or customers, doing so could contravene the BC Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”). PIPA applies to all organizations in BC (with some exceptions) and prohibits the collection, use and disclosure of employee personal information without consent unless the collection, use and disclosure is reasonably required to establish, manage or terminate an employment relationship provided that the employee has prior notification and the employer’s purpose for the collection, use or disclosure.
“Employee personal information”, is broadly defined and has been interpreted to include things such as personnel records, job applications, performance evaluations, and letters of resignation or termination.
The vaccination status of employees is clearly “employee personal information.” While an employer might argue that publishing the fact that all employees are vaccinated does not relate to any specific employee, it is likely the Privacy Commissioner would take the position that advertising all employees are vaccinated amounts to disclosing the vaccination status of each individual employee.
Thus a prudent employer who wants to advertise the vaccination status of its workforce should seek the consent of employees before disclosing that information publicly. Given the reaction to the Safetodo.ca website, some employees might refuse their consent.
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