The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws regarding discrimination against a job applicant or employee, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EEOC has released guidance for employers on applying these laws to job applicants or employees who may be affected directly by the virus. Some key points from the guidance:
- ADA-covered employers, typically employers with at least 15 employees, may ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 during the pandemic. This information must be kept as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.
- Employers are permitted to measure employees’ body temperatures, as the CDC and health authorities have acknowledged community spread and issued precautions that include taking temperatures. This is considered a medical examination and must be kept confidential.
- Employers may question employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in ill about their symptoms in an effort to determine if they might have the COVID-19 virus.
- Employers are permitted to require employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home.
- Employers are permitted to require doctors’ notes for employees who have been out sick or with symptoms clearing them of the virus before they are allowed to return to work. However, employers should consider alternative arrangements for employees returning to work since healthcare organizations might be too busy to provide such documentation.
- Employers are permitted to screen job applicants for COVID-19, as long as they do so for all applicants for the same type of job. Employers are also permitted to measure an applicant’s temperature as a post-job offer, pre-employment medical exam, and may delay a new hire’s start date if they have COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus. If the new hire is required to start immediately, but unable to do so because of COVID-19 or related symptoms, an employer may withdraw the job offer.
For more information, visit the EEOC’s FAQs regarding COVID-19 at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm, or download their pandemic preparedness guide at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/upload/pandemic_flu.pdf.
If you have questions or would like to discuss COVID-19's effect on you or your business, contact a member of the HBK CPAs & Consultants team.