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Unvaccinated May Still Need Masks at Work

It’s a complicated scenario.

For more than a year, the issue of masks has been a topic of controversy, and now that controversy may have a new front in the workplace.

While cases are dropping and businesses are allowed to bring back employees from their home offices, business owners are taking getting back to work seriously. They can hardly rely on the honor system when it comes to employees and COVID-19 vaccinations as it relates to mask wearing in the office. But are they allowed to ask?

The short answer is yes. According to Sean Egan, Michigan director of COVID-19 workplace safety for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, “businesses are allowed to ask employees for a copy of their vaccination card.” Egan’s statement came in a recent Q&A with business owners. He also spoke during a virtual town hall meeting with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Do employees have to show their vaccination card? Not necessarily. But by not showing it, they may be required to wear a mask and maintain social distancing or work from home.

According to information released by Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Administration within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, “since March 2020, employers have reported 61 worker deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan and 173 in-patient hospitalizations for COVID-19 potentially linked to workplace exposure to SARS-CoV-2. MIOSHA has received over 15,000 complaints from employees alleging uncontrolled COVID-19 hazards in the workplace and 580 referrals from local government, including local health departments, indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

In short, it’s a complicated scenario. But there are rules that come from the state, not just an employer. Patience, flexibility and education will be key heading into late summer. Businesses have a tremendous amount of work to do in order to comply with the standards set by the state.

“By and large, the science on how this does spread and knowing socially distancing and these coverings are so important … has not changed during this crisis,” Egan said in the town hall. “That’s going to be critical to making sure we keep this economy open.”

Guidelines that focus on required practices for businesses are available at michigan.gov/covidworkplacesaftey.

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