HR Headaches: Should You Ask About Vaccine Statuses on Resumes?

Many applicants are putting their vaccination status on resumes. Here’s what you need to understand the trend and what you can legally ask.


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From Delta Airlines, to tech giants like Twitter and Lyft, companies across the country are requiring their workforce to get a vaccine.

In November, President Joe Biden required that all companies with 100 or more employees must ensure that their workers either get a vaccination or test weekly for COVID-19 by early January. The mandate is currently pending appeal.

While the vaccination rule is getting most of the attention, there are a few other requirements nested in Biden’s order as well. As NPR explains, workers have to be paid for the time it takes to get vaccinated and companies have to provide sick leave for any side effects. Further, unvaccinated workers have to wear masks and healthcare workers are exempt from the testing rule — it’s vaccination only for them. (It’s important to note that companies do not have to pay for weekly testing of their employees who are unvaccinated by choice).

The point is, there’s a lot to consider and understand when it comes to vaccination and employment. It’s no wonder that applicants are putting vaccination statuses on their resumes. But should you be asking for it?

Vaccine statuses on resumes: Understanding the trend

The number of job postings that required vaccination were up 242% between the end of July and the end of August.

Now that the vaccine is widely available, those looking for jobs have taken to including their vaccination status on their resumes and other applicant materials. Part of this is in response to the job market. As an Indeed Hiring Lab report from September found, the number of job postings that required vaccination were up 242% between the end of July and the end of August.

Considering the vaccination requirements that are both already in place as well as coming down the line, it makes sense that many applicants are choosing to disclose their vaccination status on their resume.

However, there’s a big difference between a voluntarily disclosed vaccination status and a potential employer asking for one. A voluntarily disclosed vaccination status is information that’s offered by choice from an applicant. A business asking applicants for medical information, even when it comes to a global pandemic, always carries a bit of risk with it, good intentions notwithstanding.

Should you ask for vaccine status on resumes?

The vaccine has become deeply politicized in the United States, which has made it a hot topic in general. On top of that, there are plenty of people who have legitimate medical and religious reasons for not getting the vaccine who could very well be your next best hire. Asking for vaccination status could land you in legal hot water. Asking this early on in the process in particular can keep quality candidates from making it through phase one of your hiring process.

When it comes to vaccine statuses and how they mix with religious and disability law, it’s generally better to focus on learning about an applicant’s vaccination status later rather than sooner.

Focusing on elements like vaccination later in the hiring process, like during an interview, helps keep qualified candidates who might have a medical reason for not getting the vaccine in the running. It’s not that you can’t hire legitimately unvaccinated people, it’s just that you’ll have to provide reasonable accommodations that can include working remotely.

How can I legally ask candidates for their vaccination status?

You’ve probably guessed by now that you should avoid asking for or requiring that applicants state their vaccination status on their resume or in other application materials.

Instead, bring up the topic during an interview but be careful about your phrasing. Rather than directly asking someone about their vaccination status, tell them about your company’s vaccination policy — and the legitimate legal exemptions involved in it — and ask them if it would create any problems for them.

Rather than directly asking someone about their vaccination status, tell them about your company’s vaccination policy.

What you can do early on, though, is list your company’s vaccination policy on your website and even in job descriptions. Doing so can inspire candidates to communicate their vaccination status in their application materials without you asking directly for it if that’s what you’re looking for.

However, you have to be sure to be explicit about the fact that there are exceptions to the requirement for those who legitimately cannot receive a vaccine. You’ll want to hint at what the reasonable accommodations are that you offer (like working remotely or weekly testing) so that candidates can understand if the role will work for them and their requirements.

Like most things, it’s a delicate balance that requires thoughtfulness and tact. Businesses across the country are facing labor shortages, so doing anything to dwindle your applicant pool is probably not a great idea. At the same time, if your company is understaffed and overworked, wasting time with candidates that just won’t work out isn’t the way to go either.

The goal is to find a process that balances these needs and, of course, keeps your company out of legal trouble at the same time.


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