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What Should You Do If One of Your Employees Has Been Exposed to COVID-19?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2020 | Employment Issues For Employers |

D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have issued stay-at-home orders closing all non-essential businesses. If you are an essential employer wondering what to do if your employee has potentially been exposed to COVID-19, the CDC recently offered some guidance.

If an employer learns that one of their employees may have been exposed to COVID-19, they should allow the employee to work from home while they self-quarantine for 14 days. If this is not an option, potentially exposed employees who display no symptoms may still report to work if following protocols are followed:

  1. Pre-Screening: The CDC recommends that employers take a potentially exposed employee’s temperature, ideally before they enter the workplace, and to assess them for symptoms on a daily basis. While this is the safest course of action, it raises several practical questions that the conscientious employer will need to consider: Who will administer the pre-screening measures? What qualifications are necessary for the person administering the pre-screening measures? Where will the pre-screening take place?Given their inherently invasive nature, medical screening procedures in the workplace are fraught with difficulties. Typically, the ADA prohibits medical exams (such as taking an employee’s temperature) unless the exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC recently announced that in the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic, it is legal for an employer to take an employee’s temperature. Some methods are less intrusive than others. For example, employers should opt for forehead or ear thermometers, rather than oral thermometers. Additionally, as with all medical information, the employee’s temperature readings must be kept confidential. Employers should not be surprised if they get pushback from their employees, so before forcing employees to submit to any pre-screening procedures, employers should consult with counsel before implementing a pre-screening program.
  2. Continued Self-Monitoring: The employee should continue to self-monitor for the 14-day period following their potential exposure.
  3. Face Masks: During this 14-day period, the employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the office. Cloth face coverings, such as a bandana, may also be worn if the employee and the employer are unable to obtain a face mask.
  4. Social Distancing: Employers should ensure that all potentially exposed employees always remain at least 6 feet apart from their co-workers until 14 days have passed since their most recent exposure.
  5. Keep a Clean Office: Under any circumstances, but especially now, employers should maintain a sanitary workspace and should disinfect all areas and shared equipment.

If the potentially exposed employee becomes symptomatic at any time, they should be instructed to immediately go home. Due to the delicate nature of monitoring and inquiring about an employee’s health, employers should contact us at 301-850-1246 as soon as they learn that an employee may have been exposed to COVID-19. We are happy to work with you to ensure that your procedures are ADA-compliant and as non-intrusive as possible, and to answer any questions about COVID-19, as well as any other aspect of employment law. www.ThatcherLaw.com. Email me at [email protected].