BBB: Your guide to requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination from customers

Milwaukee, Wis. – The pandemic continues to keep business owners on their toes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is constantly shifting as the pandemic evolves, and while vaccination rates are on the rise, dangerous variants mean we’re not out of the woods just yet. Due to these conditions, more companies are requiring proof of vaccination from their customers.

How can you, as a business owner, navigate this phase of the pandemic? If you want to require proof of vaccination from your customers, what should you know? BBB recommends the following tips to help you develop and implement a plan.

Think Ahead When Planning Your Vaccine Policy

  • Come up with a plan. So far, the federal government has decided against a unified vaccine passport program or requirement, which means you need to think about how you will verify your customers’ vaccination claims. You may decide on an honor system, where you simply ask the person if they are fully vaccinated or you may ask to see the person’s CDC vaccination card for more concrete proof. If you live in New York or California, you can take advantage of programs that allow consumers to show proof of vaccination with digital vaccination cards.
  • Consult with your legal counsel. Since local and federal government guidelines and recommendations are constantly changing, it is wise to speak with legal counsel before implementing any vaccination mandates. Your legal advisors can help you make decisions that will protect the health of everyone involved, without violating their rights.
  • Clearly communicate your policies. Once you determine your policy, make it known to your employees and customers. Clear and consistent communication will help everyone understand your expectations. Be sure to post signs at your physical place of business, as well as digital reminders on your website and social media channels.
  • Give employees extra training. If your employees deal with customers in-person, give them the training they need to respectfully explain your vaccination policies and help customers to comply. Be sure employees understand how to handle potentially violent situations, especially if you live in a community where attitudes towards the vaccine are not favorable. Training will give your employees confidence and let them know you care about their health and safety.
  • Protect your business reputation when requiring proof of vaccination from customers. As a business owner, you may require proof of vaccination from customers who come to your business in person. However, to avoid accusations of discriminatory practices, it is wise to implement alternatives for members of the public who cannot get vaccinated or who have chosen not to. Alternative services could include curbside pick-ups, online sales, and outdoor dining areas. If a customer won’t agree to the alternative methods you offer, you may then refuse service on the grounds of health and safety concerns. In addition, private businesses may continue to require customers to wear a mask and social distance, regardless of their vaccination status.
  • Learn to spot fake vaccine cards. Fake vaccine cards are on the rise, but there are a few tell-tale signs that can help you and your employees spot them. First, make sure all the information is filled out and the vaccination dates align with the timing each vaccine became CDC approved. Second, for those who received a two-dose vaccine with a few weeks between each dose, it makes sense that there should be two sets of handwriting on the card. Both fields filled out in the same handwriting could be a red flag. Third, watch out for fully printed cards since most care providers fill out the information by hand.