The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination including the Americans with Disabilities Act, updated its COVID-19 guidelines. The EEOC gave employers the right to test workers for COVID-19 before they enter the workplace.
Have questions about your rights in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic? Please see this prior LR What You Need to Know Q&A.
Employers are now allowed to measure a worker’s body temperature during the COVID-19 pandemic without violating the ADA. Under the ADA, measuring body temperature is a medical examination; however, because of the spread of COVID-19, employers are given leeway to monitor their employees’ temperatures. The EEOC guidelines do note, however, that asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 virus do not develop fevers.
Employers are also able to administer a COVID-19 test before their employees enter the workplace to combat the “direct threat” of COVID-19. The EEOC guidelines state that employers need to make sure COVID-19 tests are “accurate and reliable.” Employers are encouraged to review guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Center for Diseases about types of testing.
The EEOC emphasizes that employers should still require regular infection control practices such as “social distancing [and] regular handwashing.” Finally, employers must keep any information about a worker’s COVID-19 test results confidential.
Employers covered by the ADA need to provide reasonable accommodations, absent undue hardship, for people with disabilities who are at greater risk from COVID-19. In its guidelines, the EEOC recommends employers look at “low-cost solutions” for workers who cannot work remotely such as “designating one-way aisles; using plexiglass, tables, or other barriers to ensure minimum distances between customers and coworkers.” The EEOC also suggests temporarily restructuring job duties or shifts to accommodate workers with disabilities.
For a complete list of the EEOC’s guidance about COVID-19 and the workplace, please see the EEOC’s website.