Can Massachusetts Businesses Ask for Proof of Vaccination?

Learn about what businesses in Massachusetts can do when it comes to requesting proof of vaccination from customers.

Can Massachusetts Businesses Ask for Proof of Vaccination?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not require its residents to present proof of vaccination when entering any location. However, some municipalities may require certain businesses to verify vaccination status, and companies or other entities may have questions about how they can use digital vaccine cards to meet their needs. If a person refuses to disclose their vaccination status, a company cannot search their pockets or vehicle for evidence that they are vaccinated. Nevertheless, they can request that the information be released voluntarily.

If it is not, a company has the right to deny entry, according to Michele Goodwin, professor of law at the University of California at Irvine and director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy. An image posted on Instagram and Twitter claimed that it is illegal for companies to ask for vaccination tests or deny entry to customers based on their vaccination status. Bob Young, editor of the At the Bar with Bowditch blog, is an experienced counselor and trial lawyer, helping clients navigate complex labor and work issues and advocating for employers facing lawsuits in Massachusetts state and federal courts and before administrative agencies. For more information on the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Act, visit the Attorney General's earned sick time webpage. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has made millions of dollars available to support businesses that are weathering the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis, through new and existing programs.

Most employees in Massachusetts have the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of work-protected sick leave per year to care for themselves and certain family members. However, the measures in those states only apply to government entities and state-funded organizations, not to privately owned companies. Massachusetts relies on analogous federal law for guidance regarding interpretations of the EAP exemption. Using earned sick time to cover absence from work due to feeling sick after receiving a vaccine is a permitted use of sick leave earned in Massachusetts. However, there are several issues that employers should consider when deciding whether to request or request proof of vaccination status.

Massachusetts recently launched a website that allows residents to obtain a digital certificate of their vaccination status through a verifiable QR code. Experts say that a reasonable accommodation does not necessarily mean that the person can enter the business or access its services in person. The Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) is a nonprofit organization that serves the legal profession and the public by promoting the administration of justice, legal education, professional excellence and respect for the law. This could mean that unvaccinated customers can only enter a business if they wear a mask or if they are offered a virtual, contactless version of the service provided by the company. But asking a person for proof of vaccination does not constitute a search or a seizure, and private companies are not government entities addressed in the amendment.