If you are a wedding vendor in fall 2021, you may be starting to get questions from clients and/or venues surrounding your vaccination status. And, you’re likely wondering how to appropriately respond.
Oftentimes, it depends on your comfort level surrounding this topic. If you ARE vaccinated, there is usually no issue because you can tell your client and present proof. If you ARE NOT vaccinated, the question then becomes: are you willing to disclose that information? Do you consider that personal medical information that is not necessary to disclose? What if your clients request you and your assistants to be vaccinated, but your assistant is not?
TLP wanted to address this topic through an FAQ. Please review the questions and answers below.
1. What if I am vaccinated, but my second shooter and/or assistant is not?
If you are vaccinated, you should tell your client that as long as you’re comfortable with disclosing the information. As far as second shooters/assistants go, you will need to ask them if they are vaccinated and if they are comfortable with you giving that information to your client(s). Then, when communicating with your client on this matter you will have to offer alternate solutions for your assistant such as Covid testing before the event date. If the client does not agree with this alternative, then you have to decide whether to find another comparable assistant or to complete the services on your own. Sometimes finding another assistant is impossible (e.g. too close to the event date, everyone is booked up, etc.) so you will have to work with your client regarding your contract to either downgrade their services without an assistant or allow you to complete the services yourself.
2. If I am vaccinated, how to I inform my client?
You do not have to disclose any information you are not comfortable with. TLP does not suggest disclosing personal medical information until requested. So, if your client asks, then you should disclose. Also, having a copy of your vaccination card is a great way to inform them and provide proof of vaccination. Simply put, make your email response short and sweet: “Hi [name], Thank you for your email! COVID-19 has been so difficult and I completely understand your concern for everyone’s safety. Throughout the pandemic I have made it my top priority to take extra precautions to keep my clients and their guests safe. I am vaccinated and have attached proof of vaccination to this email.”
3. Is it legal for me to ask my clients to sign an addendum confirming that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19?
Yes, it is legal. You have the freedom to contract in the United States. But, be aware that by sending out this type of addendum, your clients may not sign it. They are not required to sign anything they do not agree to beyond the original contract they signed. Thus, be prepared to have some clients that are not vaccinated become upset (and you will have to decide if you want to continue working with them at that point).
4. Is it illegal to specifically ask for or post about looking for help for someone that is specifically already vaccinated?
It depends on your state laws surrounding this topic and whether you are hiring an employee or independent contractor. If it’s a new employee, you will need to check and see if your state laws consider these discriminatory employment practices. Some states have recently passed laws regarding employers being unable to ask these types of questions to employees. But, if it’s an independent contractor, this would not be illegal. You can certainly ask, but they have the option to not answer. For contracted assistants for weddings and events, you are totally okay to ask this question prior to hiring them.
5. How does HIPAA protect you from not having to disclose this information?
Many people misinterpret HIPAA. This law prohibits medical providers from disclosing confidential medical information they have on file to anyone else without your express written consent. HIPAA is not a concern here whatsoever. HIPAA doesn’t prevent anyone from asking you about your vaccination status. And there’s nothing in it that prohibits businesses, such as private venues, clients, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, etc. from asking you for proof of vaccination. Finally, HIPAA privacy rules do not prevent you from answering questions about whether you’ve been vaccinated (see morehere).
6. Does my client have any legal grounds to fire me or request a refund if I can’t meet their COVID vaccination requirements?
This depends. Because vaccines were likely not a consideration at the time of you and your client contracting, there was no ‘meeting of the minds’ on this subject. It is now a consideration that does somewhat ‘frustrate the purpose’ of your contract. So, there are certainly legal arguments to be made from clients that could potentially win in court to terminate the contract. But, you also likely have arguments on your side surrounding alternative measures you are taking to comply with CDC rules at this point while also maintaining your personal opinions on vaccines - this is addressed in our TLP email templates. If your clients request a refund or try to cancel the contract based on your vaccination status, you will need to decide whether challenging this request will be worth it. Consider the cost of the refund versus the cost of hiring lawyers to either settle or litigate this issue on your behalf.
7. If my contract says "all changes must be made 30 days prior to the event date" and the client asks all vendors to be vaccinated with only two weeks until the wedding, does that change anything?
First, I wouldn’t think that your “changes need to be made 30 days out” clause would help here. A court interprets clauses based on their plain language and meanings from the point of a client/layperson signing the contract at the beginning. So, here it would likely mean that “changes” would be construed as changes to your services (i.e. coverage hours, amount of helpers, add-ons, etc.) would encompass that. A court may not interpret that to mean anything about vaccinations because it would be outside the scope of what your clients thought that to mean upon signing. You may want to consider if there is a way to downsize your staff and still provide services while complying with your clients’ wishes? Or if you can try your best to find other helpers?
If you are wondering EXACTLY what to say in your email responses, The Legal Paige has created an email template bundle to help you navigate your responses to these questions, set yourself up for success, and hopefully avoid any contract termination issues.
The legal team at The Legal Paige worked with a professional copywriter to draft these template emails and had industry professionals review and critique them. Remember, these are email templates ONLY and are not actual contracts. These email templates will give you specific wording that equips you with an appropriate legal response to these questions.
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.