DOJ Suddenly Drops Asking Employees About Vaccine Status

( )- At the same time that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is saying fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks, the Department of Justice is saying it will no longer ask employees about their vaccination status.

The DOJ sent a memo to managers on Friday that warned them they shouldn’t ask any of their subordinates whether they’ve been vaccinated yet. The new DOJ policy is much different from guidance it sent out back in February that said employers do indeed have a right to ask their employees about their vaccine status.

The Hill obtained an email that was sent Friday from the assistant attorney general for administration at the DOJ, which read:

“Supervisors and managers should not ask about an employee’s vaccination status or use information about an employee’s vaccination status to make decisions about how and when employees will report to a workplace instead of teleworking.”

So, even though the CDC says it’s perfectly safe for vaccinated people to go maskless indoors and outdoors, the DOJ seems to be taking a much more cautious approach. Some Senators took off their masks earlier this week in the Senate chamber, but it doesn’t look like DOJ employees will be doing that in the near future in their office.

Back in February, the DOJ said its offices “should strongly consider policies that encourage vaccination and continue to consider alternative work options for unvaccinated employees. [Managers] should have a valid business reason for requesting this information.”

Managers were told they shouldn’t ask for a reason that an employee might not take the vaccine, because “such questions could elicit information about health or disability. Inquiring about an employee’s vaccine status for business purposes does not likely implicate discriminatory issues.”

The DOJ has the ability to track which employees have received a COVID-19 vaccine, but those lists “should be maintained in secure administrative or management files … and [be] accessible only to component personnel who need this tracking information to perform their job duties,” the February guidance says.

Their memo even went as far as saying that it was completely lawful for their agency, as well as other government agencies and employers, to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. They say this is allowed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission once the vaccine is “generally available” to the public.

For now, this new memo might not matter much. Most employees of the DOJ are still working from home and aren’t yet required to report to an office. Because of this, it doesn’t really matter whether employees are vaccinated or not.

While DOJ officials wouldn’t comment further on their policy or the memo they sent out last week, they did say that employees who wanted to continue to wear a mask in the office when they return would be allowed to do so.

The DOJ said:

“As we go forward, we ask everyone to respect the wishes of our colleagues and visitors and ensure that anyone who chooses to continue wearing a mask while in department buildings and facilities may continue to do so without interference.”