By: Clay Campbell

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently announced that all adults will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines on April 7th. So far, the state has had well over 4 million total doses administered. As the vaccination numbers continue to increase, you may be wondering how to navigate reopening, if you have not already, and preparing your business to return to normalcy.

According to Marcellino and Tyson Attorneys Bryan Tyson and Clay Campbell, there are several things you should consider when allowing your employees and customers to return in person.

• Can you require the vaccination for your employees?
Currently, neither the federal nor state government requires individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Since North Carolina is an at-will employment state, employers can require employees to obtain vaccines and terminate them for failing or refusing to do so. However, there are exceptions for individuals who do not get vaccinated due to health and religious reasons. Further, consider the ramifications of such a requirement before instituting it. Applicants and employees will challenge any employment decision based on their vaccination status and you may prefer to avoid such a challenge.

• Can you disclose who has and has not received the vaccination?
No. There are numerous health information protection laws in place, at both the state and federal level, that prevent disclosing such information. While limited circumstances may allow for it, it is always in your best interest not to disclose any personal information regarding your employees and consult an attorney before doing so.

• Do you have to continue allowing employees work from home?
There is no requirement that you allow employees to work from home once you are cleared to open. Whether you choose to allow an employee to continue to work from home depends on that particular employee’s situation and your relationship. For some employers, a work-from-home model could be beneficial, allowing you to reduce office space and related expenses and giving employees greater flexibility in where they live. Then again, some jobs simply cannot be performed at home. It’s best to figure out what makes the most sense for you and your employees.

• Can you still require employees to wear masks, even if/when it is not mandated?
Although not completely clear, so long as there is a recommendation to wear masks in public, you can safely require employees to wear masks. When masks are no longer mandated, you can still require employees to wear masks if there is a legitimate business need, such as genuine concern over employee health and safety. Exceptions for health conditions would still apply to this.

• Can you require customers to show proof of vaccination and/or require masks before coming into my business?
You may not request proof of vaccination nor can you refuse any person to enter for this reason. However, you can request all customers wear a mask on entry as long as a sign is posted at the front door and request a customer to leave who refuses to do so.

These statements are not intended to be legal advice. If you have further questions and would like to speak with an attorney directly, please give us a call at (704) 919-1519.