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Employment Law & Litigation

COVID-19 Resources for Small Businesses – Compliance with Employment Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released guidance to aid employers in navigating important questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.  The guidance addressed compliance with workplace related decisions impacting the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.  The guidance from the EEOC answered the following critical questions for employers:

    • How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?
      • During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.
    • When may an ADA-covered employer take the body temperature of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
      • Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. Because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, employers may measure employees’ body temperature. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.
    • Does the ADA allow employers to require employees to stay home if they have symptoms of the COVID-19? 
      • Yes. The CDC states that employees who become ill with symptoms of COVID-19 should leave the workplace. The ADA does not interfere with employers following this advice.
    • When employees return to work, does the ADA allow employers to require doctors’ notes certifying their fitness for duty? 
      • Yes. Such inquiries are permitted under the ADA either because they would not be disability-related or, if the pandemic influenza were truly severe, they would be justified under the ADA standards for disability-related inquiries of employees. As a practical matter, however, doctors and other health care professionals may be too busy during and immediately after a pandemic outbreak to provide fitness-for-duty documentation. Therefore, new approaches may be necessary, such as reliance on local clinics to provide a form, a stamp, or an e-mail to certify that an individual does not have the pandemic virus.
    • If an employer is hiring, may it screen applicants for symptoms of COVID-19?
      • Yes. An employer may screen job applicants for symptoms of COVID-19 after making a conditional job offer, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same type of job.  This ADA rule applies whether or not the applicant has a disability.  
    • May an employer take an applicant’s temperature as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical exam?
      • Yes.  Any medical exams are permitted after an employer has made a conditional offer of employment.  However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.
    • May an employer delay the start date of an applicant who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it? 
      • Yes.  According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace. 
    • May an employer withdraw a job offer when it needs the applicant to start immediately but the individual has COVID-19 or symptoms of it?
      • Based on current CDC guidance, this individual cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer may withdraw the job offer.

While your business is making workforce adjustments to address this rapidly developing and evolving situation, please stay aware of the above guidelines.  Please keep in mind that your business will still need to comply with any requirements that are more restrictive, including those that may be issued at a state level.  

This unprecedented and historic event will likely result in some new challenges ahead, but please know that we are here to help. Should you need anything or have any questions, please call us at 337-291-1000 or toll-free at 866-740-7600.

Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.