In parts of New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere in the country, many employers have been performing employee temperature checks as well as temperatures checks of vendors to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Creating these protocols also help customers feel safe about visiting essential businesses.
While companies like Walmart have publicized that they are taking employee temperatures and vendors temperatures before permitting them to enter the workplace, Home Depot is giving workers thermometers and requesting them to take their own temperatures to make sure that they do not have a fever before reporting to work.
If you are employed by or considering working at one of these companies, learning about the measures might reassure you. It also might make you uncomfortable that your rights are being infringed on. This article briefly considers whether your employer can lawfully take your temperature daily as a term of employment.
What Can Employers Do During the Pandemic
It might make you uncomfortable to hear as an employee, but employers have the right to perform several activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These tasks include:
- Employers can take worker’s temperatures before allowing them to work. This constitutes a medical examination, however, and employers must be careful about how they treat this confidential information.
- Employers can ask workers whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms before letting them work. Employers must also protect this confidential data.
- Employers can create a daily temperature testing log, but this information must also be kept confidential. All of the health information employers collect on their workers must be retained separately from personnel files.
- Some employers might decide to administer COVID-19 tests before letting workers return to their job. Because this test is much more invasive than taking an employee’s temperature, employers must be aware of confidentiality issues and should do whatever possible to make sure they use accurate tests.
- If an employer learns that you have COVID-19, they can then share this information with public health agencies so that contact tracing can be performed. If you are employed through an employment agency, the agency can also inform your employer about your COVID-19 status.
- Employers can require employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which might include masks or gloves. Employers can also require employees to wash their hands routinely and to follow social distancing requirements.
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The Role of the ADA During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces workplace anti-discrimination laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. These laws include requirements for reasonable accommodation and regulations about medical examinations and inquiries. These laws, however, do not interfere with the ability of employers to follow guidelines and suggestions made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about how to reduce coronavirus transmission risks.
Speak with an Long Island Employment Law Attorney
If you believe that your rights as a worker have been infringed on during the coronavirus pandemic, it can help to speak with an attorney. Contact Cohen & Jaffe LLP for a free confidetinal consultation.