As businesses are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we all need to do our part to follow the safety procedures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities.
Our team at InterConnect Human Resource Services can help you understand what steps you can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19, limit its adverse effects on your business and keep your employees safe.
A Direct Threat
COVID-19 is officially considered a direct threat to the health and safety of employees and others. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act have been updated to ensure that pandemic planning strategies are consistent with the guidelines of these documents.
Keeping Employees Safe in the Workplace
While the CDC recommends that employees work from home when possible, we know that there are some instances where this is not feasible. Jobs that require employees to enter the workplace can take precautions to limit exposure to the virus, including the following:
- Sending ill employees home. Employees who display flu-like symptoms can be sent home.
- Asking employees to telework. Employees who are able to perform their job outside of the office should do so.
- Restricting interaction. When it is necessary to work in an office environment, employees should limit their interactions with each other and with spaces, objects, materials, etc. that are used by others.
- Gathering medical information. If an employee misses work, employers can inquire if the employee is exhibiting any symptoms associated with the pandemic virus. Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath, though some people may not exhibit any or all of these. While taking an employee’s temperature is not normally permitted, during a pandemic it is allowed. All medical information is still subject to ADA confidentiality requirements.
- Requiring doctor’s notes. Employers can request a doctor’s note certifying that an employee is no longer contagious before allowing them to return to the workplace.
Disability-related inquiries and medical exams are still strictly prohibited by the updated version of the ADA, and anti-discrimination laws are still enforced by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers and employees should work together to ensure that reasonable accommodations are still provided.
Hiring During the Pandemic
The EEOC’s updated Pandemic Preparedness document provides new information about hiring during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Symptom screening. Employers are allowed to screen potential employees for symptoms of the virus. This is only permitted after the employer makes a conditional job offer and only if the screening applies to all entering employees. Employers may not discriminate by requiring pre-offer screenings or screening only a limited number of employees. Employers may take an applicant’s temperature after an offer has been made and if it is part of a pre-employment medical exam. Remember, some people who have COVID-19 do not experience a fever or other symptoms.
- Delayed start dates. Applicants who have the virus or related symptoms may still be hired but required to start at a later date.
- Rescinded job offers. If an applicant is hired for a job that requires an immediate start date, but cannot safely enter the workplace, the employer may withdraw the job offer.
Resources and Help
Remember, the CDC and local health authorities are constantly updating guidelines as the pandemic spreads and more information is gathered. Make sure to follow current guidelines in order to keep yourself, your family, employees, co-workers, clients and others safe.
If you need expert guidance managing your human resources during this stressful time or would like more information on COVID-19 updates, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our friendly and knowledgeable team at InterConnect Human Resource Services will be happy to assist you.