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Burnaby Asian grocery store T&T takes heat for posting COVID-19 vaccination rates

Privacy concerns raised

Privacy concerns are being raised after an Asian grocery chain in Burnaby at Metropolis at Metrotown posted its staff members’ vaccination rates online and at the entrance of many of its stores.

Debates are already raging across Canada whether or not to introduce COVID-19 vaccine passports for many aspects of daily life after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled they are “to be expected” for travel in the coming months.

Last week, Ian Young, of the South China Morning Post, shared a photo on his Twitter showing the T&T supermarket in Yaohan Centre setting up a board at the store entrance with words saying the staff vaccination rate of this store is 87%. 

This post raised questions with some people on the Twitter thread, including concerns over a possible violation of the Privacy Act. 

“I wonder if that is legal, privacy act and all that,” tweeted @nuttallreports.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate, to be honest,” tweeted another. “The number is encouraging but I fear employer(s) are coercing employees into specific, personal, medical decisions. Everyone has a right to privacy about their own medical care. How did they get this number without demanding proof?”

A NOW reader named Tammy also wrote in with her concerns that workers are being forced to reveal private information.

“How else would they have this information,” she said in an email. “I was really surprised to see this information posted.”

T&T at Metropolis at Metrotown has been a leader in many parts of COVID-19, including one of the first local businesses to require staff and customers to wear masks – well before it was mandated by health officials. The company also posts daily staff cases online, something many businesses do not bother with.

According to Paul Wong, marketing manager at T&T, the company “values transparency all throughout the pandemic,” such as being the only Asian grocer being transparent about their COVID-19 cases.

This time, said Wong, they decided to extend their “transparency commitment” even further to include store staff vaccination rates. 

However, Wong also noted that getting vaccinated or not is a very personal decision, which is not mandatory for store employees.

Wong didn’t answer the question of whether or not employees offer their vaccination records voluntarily.

“Individual vaccination status is not published to protect employee privacy,” added Wong. 

"In addition, 83 per cent of T&T are vaccinated with their first dose, and they volunteer this information to make customers be their own judge for what makes them feel safe, said Tina Lee, CEO of T&T supermarkets. 

“I would hope that it also makes customers feel more safe when shopping with us, but who’s to say 83 per cent is enough? Some customers might want to see 95 per cent before they come back to shop in store, while other customers might not care at all,” added Lee. 

Glacier Media reached out to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. for comments regarding privacy violations, but said it couldn’t comment on specific cases. 

  • With additional reporting by Nono Shen, Richmond News