What do you need to know about COVID-19?
Pick a concern and it’s punctuated by question marks. And the amount of information (and misinformation) that follows can leave you with information overload. What do you need to know? What do you need to pass on to your employees?
Sometimes there is just too much!
Here are a couple go to sites to help you find what you need – fast.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) created interim guidance for businesses and employers to plan for and respond to issues related to COVID-19. This guidance provides a series of recommended strategies that you can put into place now.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) provides rolling global updates. It also provides timely articles on how to best deal with the dangers as the virus spreads.
- Your own policies.
But you will need a few more trusted sites to make sure you stay compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and other Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws.
Remember, EEO laws, including the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, still apply during the time of COVID-19. But they do not prevent you from following guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC or local public health authorities about steps you can take to maintain workplace safety.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) offers guidance materials related to COVID-19.
- The EEOC FAQ for Employers on COVID-19 and the application of ADA Rules answers common questions about what you should know about COVID-19, the ADA, and Rehabilitation Act, and other EEO laws.
- The EEOC Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act helps you put strategies in place to navigate the impact of COVID-19 in your workplace.
So… you have sites you can trust to provide good information – what do you do now?
Use those sites to help you stay compliant and answer questions with confidence.
Can you ask that?
Question: Can you require your employees to take a COVID-19 test?
Look to the EEOC guidance – you may require employees to take a COVID-19 test because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others. To comply with ADA, you need to ensure that testing is reliable and accurate.
Question: Can you screen employees who are coming in to work?
The EEOC states that the COVID-19 pandemic allows you to screen your employees. You may ask all employees who will be physically entering the workplace if they have COVID-19, if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19, or if they have been tested for COVID-19. You can screen employees by questionnaire.
Questionnaires must be applied uniformly to all employees at every level of your workforce. Having a written policy that states you have initiated these practices to help prevent the spread of an infectious disease in the workplace can prevent claims that practices are not being uniformly applied or are in any way discriminatory. It can also show your employees that you are doing everything possible to create a safe work environment.
ADA guidance states you may keep them from being in your workplace if an employee refuses to answer the screening questions.
Question: Can you require employees to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19?
CDC guidance states that employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home or leave the workplace if they have symptoms at work. The ADA does not interfere with you following CDC guidelines.
Question: If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 are you required to tell other employees?
CDC guidance says you tell everyone who was possibly exposed without revealing the employee’s identity as required by the ADA. You may share only the diagnosis and not the identity of the employee with coworkers. The law is clear about confidentiality. As with any medical information, any records must be held as confidential information and stored separately.
Given the uncertainty around the pandemic, you should continue to look for updated guidance issued by the EEOC, CDC and local public health authorities. Use these sites to answer questions or find information to keep you compliant about:
- Disability-related questions and medical exams
- Confidentiality of medical information
- Reasonable accommodation
- Hiring and onboarding
- Pandemic-related harassment
- Furloughs and layoffs
- Return to work
- And more
You now have trusted sources for information. Bookmark them so you can refer to them — fast.
Everything with COVID-19 is changing quickly. But you now have the means to stay on top of the information — right at your fingertips.
This article shouldn’t be construed as legal advice. If you have detailed questions, they should be addressed directly with your labor and employment attorney.