Ask the expert: Mandatory flu shots, mask-wearing policies, and HIPAA

By: February 9th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Here’s a different take on healthcare worker mandatory flu shot policies requiring either immunization or wearing a mask during patient contact. Whether such a policy would be a HIPAA violation was addressed in HCPro’s Compliance Monitor, February 8.

Q: Our healthcare facility is requiring employees to get the flu shot or they will have to wear a mask when within 6 feet of patients. Is this not a violation of employee or patient privacy?

A. The Privacy Rule only protects the privacy of patient, not employees. Requiring non-vaccinated employees to wear a respiratory mask to protect the health of patients does not violate the patient’s privacy and may prevent the spread of infection.

Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, vice president of HIM at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, TX answered this question in the February issue of Briefings on HIPAA. Brandt is a nationally recognized expert on patient privacy, information security, and regulatory compliance, and her publications provided some of the basis for HIPAA’s privacy regulations.






I am an occupational health nurse that has not been assigned an office with a door, I work in a cubicle open to many others. Is there any way to convince my administration that the confidentiality of my phone calls and employee visits dealing with return to work, injuries, and their medical records requires privacy? Does the privacy rule apply in this case since employees are my patients?

Our hospital mandates non-vaccinated employees to wear mask at all times, except in the cafeteria and lunch rooms. Reasons- protection of patients and vaccinated employees. For those who have no patient contact but have to wear a mask is a daily pain. Is there a rule says that non-vaccinated employees have to wear a mask all day for the protection of the vaccinated co-workers?

I feel like it is a violation of my HIPAA rights. It requires me to disclose to the patients & my co-workers that I am unable to receive the vaccine & that is why I have to wear a mask. My facility goes so far as to make us wear large buttons that say yes I got it or no I didn’t. Just because I am a Nurse does not mean it is everyone’s right to know whether or not I got a flu shot.

This response is absolutely ridiculous. We can’t require employees to wear stickers that indicate if they have AIDS or not… because that would be a violation of privacy.
The Flu Mask and stickers are just a way of bullying people to get infected with the Flu Shot


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