Among the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, drastic changes for many workers. That includes what employers are allowed to do right now to prevent the spread of disease.
There are sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act that allow employers to take certain measures during a pandemic that would otherwise violate this law. These measures include asking employees health-related questions, sending people home if they think they show COVID-19 symptoms and even taking employees’ temperatures.
CEO of Rocket City HR Consulting, Samantha Brinkely, says one of
the most surprising things employers can do currently is see if workers are
running a fever.
“People taking temperatures in the workplace, especially workplaces that aren’t hospitals, hospitals you kind of expect that because you’re dealing with that sort of thing all the time, but people in a normal workplace being able to take temperatures of their employees is really highly unusual,” Brinkley said.
That’s something that would normally violate the Americans with
Disabilities Act, but according to guidance from the US Equal Opportunity
Commission, it’s allowed right now.
The commission also says employers can ask people health questions when then call out sick. Specifically, they are allowed to see the person is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“If you had the flu, there’s not really a policy you could
write that would have any meat to it that somebody has to stay home because
they’re sick, but with the pandemic, and we’re trying to keep it down, this
actually gives an employer the ability to say if you come to work sick, we’re
going to be able to send you home and if you are sick you have to stay
home,” Brinkley explained.
Again, this normally would violate ADA guidelines, but the commission
says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says employees who become
ill with symptoms of COVID-19 should leave the workplace and
the ADA does not interfere with employers following this advice.
Brinkley says while employers may have more latitude with certain
laws, OSHA requires them to keep the workplace safe.
“OSHA has a requirement for employers to maintain a safe workplace, free of any hazards to an employee’s health or safety, and with the pandemic, if they didn’t take precaution, then somebody could be infected and infect others,” Brinkley said.
Showing that the battle to slow the spread of COVID-19 is in
hospitals, labs and even in the office.