The answer may surprise you.

As New York has started to lift the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people across the state, there seems to be some confusion about whether or not places of business can ask customers to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or not. Some have claimed that asking anyone for information like this is violating HIPPA laws according to News 10.

HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was put in place to protect people that don't want healthcare providers sharing their medical conditions with others. The law strictly applies to healthcare providers including hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, insurance companies and billing agencies but what about restaurants and other places of business?

Maureen McGlynn a healthcare attorney in Syracuse, New York told News 10 that, "Other types of entities, like restaurants, like this law firm, like the grocery store, are not HIPAA-covered entities under the HIPAA law and their actions are generally not governed by HIPAA." McGlynn also said that she gets many calls from people who think their HIPAA rights were violated, but weren’t, "I think it is misunderstood."

That explanation clears up customers, but can employers ask employees to provide proof of vaccination? Employment lawyer Laura Spring told News 10 that employers are bound by additional privacy restrictions, but vaccines are not covered. She said, "Under anti-discrimination laws, you cannot ask employees about their medical conditions and asking whether they’ve been vaccinated is not a medical-related inquiry."

What if the employee has a medical disability or a religious preference? Spring said that businesses do need to follow both federal and state exemptions when it comes to asking for vaccine status or requiring vaccines. She said, "If someone has a medical disability or they have a religious preference, then the employer is under an obligation to see if they can accommodate that issue."

Popular New York Businesses That Will or Won't Require Masks

Mask Confusion: New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks. However, individual businesses and venues can have mask rules if they choose. Here's a list of where you will and won't need a mask.  

Which Hudson Valley Supermarkets Still Require Masks

As of Wednesday, May 19 masks are no longer required for vaccinated individuals living in the Hudson Valley. That doesn't mean that businesses still can't have policies in place denying service to anyone not wearing one. Supermarkets, which have been on the front lines in fighting the spread of COVID-19, are now faced with a tough decision when it comes to protecting their workers and customers in areas where vaccinations are lagging.

How to Sign Up for New York's Excelsior Pass

Wondering how to sign up for the New York State Excelsior Pass to show your proof of COVID-19 vaccination? Here's a step-by-step guide.