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Can Businesses Legally Require Customers' Proof Of Vaccination?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how businesses will know who's vaccinated and who's not.

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly confirmed Monday that California is not working on a vaccine passport system. But that has many wondering: Can businesses legally require proof of vaccine before you take off your mask?

Enforcing mask mandates was hard enough when everyone had to wear them. Now, business owners worry it'll get worse if they have to ask mask-less customers for proof of vaccine.

"I'll just have to take their word for it because how do you prove that you've been vaccinated unless you demand to see their vaccination card?" said a business owner.

"Is it a violation of my privacy for a store to request my private medical information?" asked Amy.

The short answer, according to experts, is probably not. While your vaccine card does qualify as protected health information, HIPAA health care privacy laws only apply to the medical industry, not restaurants and businesses, which can generally refuse service to anyone.

Julie: Could this be considered discrimination if someone refuses them service because they're not vaccinated?

Jen Kates, Kaiser Family Foundation: I think it's it's really unclear.

Kates, director of global health at Kaiser Family Foundation says as long as they're not discriminating based on things like race, religion, or disability, there's a compelling legal argument for protecting employees and patrons – especially if they still allow you to shop with proof of a negative test or a mask.

And as we've reported, there's no shortage of blank and counterfeit vaccine cards for sale online. So, it's unclear if requiring proof of vaccination would serve the intended purpose – something some business owners hope they don't have to do.

"I don't think that us having to ask for people's identification cards to see if they're vaccinated is something that I want to do, as a business owner," said one business owner.

There is no indication right now that business owners would be required to police vaccines. But Ghaly clarified that businesses may require stricter measures than the state guidelines.

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