On April 9, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) provided updated Technical Assistance Questions and Answers regarding COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). This is a summary of the pertinent parts of this Technical Assistance.
Employee Sick Call Out for COVID-19 Related Reason
When an employee calls out sick for COVID-19 related reason, an employer may ask the employee whether he or she is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Specifically, an employer may ask the employee whether he or she is experiencing any of the following: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. When asking these questions, the employer does not violate the ADA. Employer must keep such information confidential.
Employer Work Entrance Screening
When screening employees entering the workplace, an employer may take employees’ temperatures. In addition, the employer may ask each employee whether he or she has experienced any COVID-19 related symptoms as identified by the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), other public health authorities and other reputable medical sources. Such symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of smell, loss of taste, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Asking such questions will allow an employer to determine whether an employee’s presence at the work place would present a direct threat to the safety of the employer and his or her co-workers. This course of action does not violate the ADA. Employers must keep abreast of the latest symptoms as identified by public health authorities, so that they can ask the appropriate questions during such screenings.
Employee Displaying COVID-19 Symptoms
When an employee exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 while at the work place, the employer can direct the employee to go home. This directive does not violate with the ADA.
Employer Requiring Employee to Provide Doctor’s Note Prior to Return to Work
Under the ADA, an employer may require an employee to provide a doctor’s note certifying fitness for duty before he or she is allowed to return to work. The EEOC has acknowledged that during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and other health care professionals may be too busy to provide such a note and “new approaches may be necessary, such as reliance on local clinics to provide a form, a stamp, or an e-mail to certify that an individual does not have the pandemic virus.” FULL ARTICLE