Workplace Safety: Dos & Don'ts of Screening Employees for COVID-19

by Jared Sugerman | Whether your place of business has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic or you are planning to reopen when stay-at-home orders are lifted, keeping your employees and customers safe is top priority.

Employees and customers may be fearful of a return to “business as usual” operating conditions. Accordingly, a renewed focus on workplace health and safety is essential to help allay fears of contagion.

Increasingly, employers are implementing health screening measures to ensure that individuals with a fever and/or other telltale symptoms of COVID-19 do not bring the virus into the workplace. If you are considering implementation of such measures in your workplace, here is a list of dos and don’ts to ensure that your health screening protocol is safe, effective, and consistent with best practices:

  • DO start by understanding the latest guidelines and rules regarding health screening in the workplace. Although temperature checks are ordinarily prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance indicating that, as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, such checks are permissible.
  • DON’T allow anyone to perform screenings without proper training and equipment. Training may include, but is not necessarily limited to, how to properly use and clean a thermometer, how to use and dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE), and how to maintain screening-related records in a manner consistent with legal obligations surrounding confidentiality of health records.
  • DO choose a program leader. Your program leader can help coordinate education, training, and implementation efforts surrounding the new screening protocol.
  • DON’T make the program leader solely responsible for the program. Allow the program leader to delegate oversight with respect to various aspects of your screening program.
  • DO follow all regular physical distancing and safety protocols, to the extent possible, while performing health screenings. For example, make sure that employees stand at least six feet apart while waiting to be screened.
  • DON’T collect screening-related data without a plan for keeping it confidential.
  • DO tell any person who presents to work with a fever of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and/or respiratory symptoms to go home immediately. Any person displaying such symptoms should not return to work until: (1) the employee has had no fever for at least three (3) days without taking medication to reduce fever during that time; AND (2) any respiratory symptoms (cough and shortness of breath) have improved for at least three (3) days; AND (3) at least seven (7) days have passed since symptom onset.
  • DON’T disclose to your employees the identity of any person found through screening to be displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
  • DO inform co-workers who are not displaying symptoms of the possibility that they may have been exposed to an individual who was sent home with a suspected case of COVID-19.
  • DON’T limit your screening measures to temperature checks, as some individuals with COVID-19 do not present with a fever. Consider supplementing temperature checks with additional screening measures, including questions regarding international travel, care of individuals with COVID-19, and respiratory symptoms.
  • DO make sure to compensate employees classified as non-exempt for time spent being screened (and waiting to be screened), as necessary.
  • DON’T forget to review applicable collective bargaining agreements prior to implementing any screening measures. If necessary, consult with union representatives before starting the screening process.

For more information about how to screen your employees for COVID-19, please contact Jared Sugerman in the D&S employment law team.