As with all cases, when an employee comes to work with a fever or difficulty in breathing, this indicates that they should seek a medical evaluation. This does not necessarily mean that the employee has COVID-19. Please keep in mind and train supervisors on the importance of not overreacting to situations in the workplace. Remember that you already have protocols in place regarding health and safety of employees.
FAQs on the COVID-19 Coronavirus
WORKPLACE SAFTEY ISSUES
Yes, you can ask employees to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19 and you can ask them to leave work until such time their medical provider provides a clearance to work.
This is an area subject to interpretation on workplace needs. Both the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) consider taking an employee’s temperature to be a “medical examination”. The ADA prohibits employers from requiring medical examinations and making disability-related inquires unless (1) the employer can show that the inquiry or exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity; or (2) the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a “direct threat” to the health and safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.
This may be considered unlawful, if it is not job-related. Remember that employees may be infected with the COVID-19 virus without the typical symptoms of a fever. In addition, having a fever may not be indicative of COVID-19 virus.
If you introduce new chemicals into the workplace, remember your OSHA Hazard Communications Standards. You are required to provide employees with effective information and training upon initial employment, new assignments and any time you introduce a new chemical hazard into the workplace.
In addition, there may be state specific training needs.
You generally cannot prohibit otherwise legal activity, such as travel abroad by an employee. You can and should monitor employees returning from travel to risky environments for signs of illness. Refer to the CDC website for steps to take.
As noted earlier, the ADA prohibits employers from making disability-related inquires and requiring medical examinations unless it fits into one of the two previously mentioned categories.
The EEOC instructs employers that the assessment by the CDC or public health authorities provides objective evidence needed for disability-related inquiry or medical examination.
No, the government has recently sent a reminder to all employers, especially those involved in providing healthcare, that they must still comply with the protections contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
WAGE AND HOUR ISSUES
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), for the most part the answer is “no”. FLSA minimum-wage and overtime requirements attach to hours worked in a workweek, so employees who are not working are not typically entitled to wages.
Please consult with your Human Resource Client Manager regarding exempt employee time-off.
If someone is sent home due to illness, follow your policy for return to work protocol. Employees should be allowed to use PTO according to your handbook policy. The center always reserves the right to continue pay without requiring employees to use PTO, but this will set a precedence. You cannot select one employee over another for this benefit.
This is a policy question. In general, if employees miss time from work, paid-time off balances can be applied. Check your handbook to verify if you allow the option of unpaid time off. There are now numerous state mandated time off policies as well. Please consult with your Human Resource Client Manager.
Employees who are concerned (and not otherwise ill) can request time-off. It is up to the discretion of management to allow for time-off in these circumstances. Time-off would be covered by PTO leave.
Section 13(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has specific definitions of what would be considered “imminent danger” where an employee has cause to refuse to work.
Yes, employees requesting leave could be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to the extent they would otherwise meet FMLA-eligibility.
Generally, no, because in most cases the COVID-19 coronavirus is a temporary condition. If the virus substantially limits a major life activity, such as breathing, then ADA may be implicated. Also, anytime you treat someone as disabled, that could trigger ADA coverage.
Yes, you can send employees home who exhibit signs of illness without violating ADA restrictions.
Employers can provide general information to employees that someone in the company is infected with the virus. To remain compliant with the ADA the employer cannot identify the individual by name or methods of identifying the individual or the individual with whom they may have had contact.
EMPLOYEE CARE QUESTIONS
We recommend that you seek advice/care in the following order
- Contact your medical provider first
- Teladoc is another option if you are covered by the MedHQ Medical Plan
- Urgent care
- Emergency room
Humana EAP is also a great source if you are feeling stress or concern about the coronavirus impact.
For more information https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV
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