With a growing number of employers implementing COVID-19 vaccination policies, employee resistance to these policies is increasingly taking the form of employees providing fake vaccination cards as proof of their vaccination.
Unfortunately, the black market for fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is very real, with U.S. Customs & Border Patrol recently seizing thousands of counterfeit vaccination materials across the country. The use of fake vaccination cards is not only illegal but also dangerous. So, what can employers do to address this difficult trend?
Remind your employees that forging a vaccination card is a federal crime with severe penalties. Using or providing fake vaccination documents that use government seals can leave an employee open to a fine of $5,000 or up to five years in prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 1017. Employers may also want to check their local U.S. Attorney’s Office website to confirm whether any advisories have been issued by the Department of Justice. For example, last month the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin issued a press release advising the public that any act of creating, distributing, selling, or buying fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is illegal and punishable under federal law. The communication of warnings like this should discourage fraudulent activity and inform employees of the seriousness of the matter. In addition, employers should consider issuing an announcement communicating to employees that if they know or suspect that any co-worker is creating, distributing, selling, buying, or forging COVID-19 vaccination cards in person or online, they should report such conduct to the appropriate federal agency (e.g., the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and/or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center).
Tie the use of fake vaccination cards to your employment disciplinary process. This might include reviewing your employee handbook to the extent you have provisions that prohibit your employees from engaging in fraud, lying, or other similar conduct at work, and reminding employees of the disciplinary measures that may be taken in the event they violate these policies. You may also want to revisit your mandatory vaccination policy to determine whether the addition of a caveat regarding the use of fake vaccination cards is warranted.
Consider your options as employers are able to report these crimes as well. In addition to encouraging employees to report these crimes and triggering your employment disciplinary policies, employers wanting to take things to a higher level can also report the use of fake vaccination cards to the federal agencies listed above.
Ulmer’s Employment & Labor Practice Group is available to provide strategic advice and counseling to employers navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please reach out to our attorneys if you have any questions.
The information provided in this insight speaks only to the information and guidance we have available as of the date of publication and is subject to change. We will continue to follow further issued guidance and regulations and endeavor to post those updates via our website. Please continue to follow these updates at ulmer.com. This insight was created by Ulmer & Berne LLP, and is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Receipt of this insight, by itself, does not create an attorney client relationship. For any questions, or for further information, please contact William D. Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.