Business Manager Tony Sapienza
COVID-19 Rules Vary from One Company to Another
Companies with employees represented by our Union have developed and revised policies related to safety protocols for COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic and in recent months with the spread of the Delta Variant. Before the introduction of emergency use authorization vaccines, most of the policies concerned vehicle sharing, masking, testing, working remotely andmaintaining 6-ft. social distancing indoors at company facilities. With Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines readily available for anybody 12 and older willing to get “jabbed,” those policies have evolved and vary widely from company-to-company.
Some companies have offered cash incentives for those employees willing to prove they have been vaccinated while requiring regular COVID-19 testing and/or masking at work for those unwilling to share their proof of vaccination. IBEW 1837 has yet to challenge any COVID-19 guidelines or requirements implemented by any of our companies. Our attorney has been closely following the evolving court cases and legal opinions on this issue while advising us about how
they might affect the rights of our members. We have regularly responded to questions from our members about this issueand will continue do so.
Just before this issue of The Current went to press, President Biden announced that the Department of Labor would issue new rules requiring vaccines or weekly tests for employees at companies with more than 100 employees. This will potentially affect many of our members but could be subject to court challenges. We will closely follow the rules’ impact. HPPA privacy protections are not as broad as many people think. The HPPA Privacy Rule protects how a healthcare provider or health insurance company shares information with employers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
“Your employer can ask you for a doctor’s note or other health information if they need the information for sick leave, workers’ compensation, wellness programs, or health insurance. However, if your employer asks your health care provider directly for information about you, your provider cannot give your employer the information without your authorization unless other laws require them to do so. Generally, the Privacy Rule applies to the disclosures made by your health care provider, not the questions your employer may ask.”
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) may provide additional privacy protections, reasonable accommodations and rights to employees in limited circumstances.
In the meantime, it continues to be important and required that you follow all safety protocols put in place by your employer. It is their right and obligation to take the steps necessary to provide a safe workplace for you and your coworkers. Required wearing of masks for vaccinated or unvaccinated employees is a widely used safety protocol that has been determined to be reasonable with very limited medical exceptions.