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October 28, 2021

Check – No Check

With the COVID-19 threat unresolved, companies nationwide are on the horns of a dilemma on several fronts; decisions about how to return to work and whether to mandate employee vaccination are just the tip of the iceberg. New concerns about verifying the authenticity of vaccination cards are slowly edging their way to the top of a very slippery slope.

In an ideal world, having a fully vaccinated workforce is the safest way to return to the office, even in a hybrid situation. But how does one go about verifying the vaccination status of even the smallest workforce? The honor system, tech-based verification tools, or team member verification? The possibilities are wide-ranging and offer varying degrees of surety depending on the company’s risk management comfort levels.

Employing the “what’s the other guy doing” method of problem solving doesn’t really offer much insight as even the largest employers are divided on their approach to vaccination verification. Companies like AT&T, Twitter, Pinterest, and Lyft are all opting for the honor system. These companies have placed the burden of providing valid vaccination records squarely on the shoulders of their employees with little oversight. Taking the view that without standardized methods for proving or disproving the validity of vaccination cards it is best to rely on the integrity of the individual. Others such as Google, Salesforce, and the San Antonio Spurs are going the tech route and relying on third-party authentication providers such as ReturnSafe and One Medical.

Both methods have their pros and cons. Third-party verification technology offers the benefit of administration and can assist in separating and securely storing employee health data apart from other company records, as required by all employers. Third-party verification also comes with a price tag; how hefty depends on the number of services utilized. On the other hand, the honor system relies on individual integrity and the knowledge that violations of the company code of conduct could result in dismissal and/or criminal charges.[i] It also has far-reaching implications for whether employees feel safe at work.

Whichever route your organization chooses to take it is important that employees understand the implications of falsely verifying their vaccination status. A review of your current handbook is important to ensure it contains a code of conduct or similar provision that prohibits employees from engaging in fraudulent conduct and puts them on notice of the disciplinary consequences of violating the policy.

Members with questions about checking the validity of employee vaccination cards should contact Western Growers.

[i] The use and forgery of a government seal – such as the ones on the CDC vaccination card – is illegal under federal law and carries penalties of $5,000 or up to five years in prison.