The Mailbag.

Can we require employees to wear proof of their COVID vaccination status?

Q Is an employer within its rights to request that verified vaccinated employees wear a special COVID badge to be allowed to be unmasked on the company's property? That means if an employee didn't have a company-provided badge, they must wear a mask at all times.--Anonymous, Illinois

AFor starters, Illinois law does allow private employers to require employees to wear a mask at all times while at work. (In many jurisdictions, masks are required for indoor work, regardless of vaccination status.)

But what about asking employees to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated as a condition of taking off the mask at work? Is someone's vaccination status confidential?

Where individuals who are vaccinated work alongside unvaccinated colleagues, being unmasked communicates one's vaccinated status more clearly than does a badge. However, wearing a mask these days does not necessarily signal that one is not vaccinated. Many employees who have been vaccinated are wearing masks because the current Delta variant is so virulent.

In short, someone's decision to wear a mask at work is not necessarily communicating vaccination status.

If you choose to create a badging system to monitor employee mask compliance, that is likely to be a reasonable means of helping ensure workplace safety protocols are being observed.

Can we ask our employees to keep mum about their year-end-bonuses?

Q Our company is handing out bonuses only to those who deserve it. Can we ask them to keep it quiet as we distribute the checks?--Christopher, New York

A Yes, but you want to avoid the impression that this is something you are demanding. If you are the person handing out the checks, anything you say will appear to come from a position of power.

If you are concerned about ill feelings, you might want to share a word or two on your reasons. For example...

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