Employers taking employees’ temperatures to screen for COVID-19 will not violate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules.
On March 21, 2020, the EEOC posted updated guidance on medical examination in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure employers are complying with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how best to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect workers and others. Medical exams are prohibited if the inquiry is likely to elicit information about a disability unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
Generally, a disability-related inquiry or medical examination of an employee is job-related and consistent with business necessity when an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee posed a direct threat due to a medical condition. According to the EEOC guidance, the COVID-19 pandemic meets the direct threat standard.
Under the current circumstances, employers can:
- Ask employees who report feeling ill questions about their symptoms to determine if they have or may have COVID-19
- Send an employee home with COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it
- Measure an employee’s body temperature
- Ask employees to complete a survey on whether they would be unable to come to work because of their own or a family members health condition
- Follow the advice of the CDC and state/local public health authorities regarding information needed to permit an employee’s return to work after visiting a specified location
Any medical information an employer obtains must be kept confidential under the ADA. The EEOC acknowledges the rapid spread of COVID-19 has disrupted normal work routines and may have resulted in unexpected or increased requests for reasonable accommodation. The guidance states, “Although employers and employees should address these requests as soon as possible, the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic may result in delay in discussing requests and in providing accommodation where warranted. Employers and employees are encouraged to use interim solutions to enable employees to keep working as much as possible.”
For more information, check out the updated guidance on the EEOC’s website.
April Mabry is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send April an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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