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The Role Employers Play in Testing Workers for COVID-19

COVID-19 numbers increase, but the economy also continues reopening. To anticipate challenges, many companies, including Amazon, plan on testing workers for COVID-19. To further complicate this issue, however, there is little federal guidance on how to navigate the illegality of such employment practices.

Employers Begin Taking Preventative Measures

Many employers have begun adopting measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 like checking temperatures, disinfecting surfaces, and requiring masks, even in social settings. For example, CVS Health has approximately 300,000 employees and in April began testing worker temperatures in its pharmacies and retail stores. Walmart has 2.2 million workers and has begun taking similar steps. Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillion, has said that the retail giant is taking additional steps to diagnose workers and provide them with antibody tests.

Screening Advantages are Marred by Limitations

No COVID-19 testing is guaranteed to provide absolute safety. If implemented wisely and used in combination with other techniques, however, screening can substantially reduce infection risks. Despite advancements in how to handle the pandemic, however, there are still substantial limitations. For example, diagnostic testing only looks for infections during a certain period.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists has also warned that while blood tests administered after an infection can locate antibodies, these tests alone should not be used to decide whether people can return to work. The degree to which employers should implement testing remains uncertain, particularly given that broad-testing might be unnecessary and could even have unintended consequences.

Common Questions About How Employers are Tackling COVID-19

One of the biggest challenges presented by COVID-19 is that there is still so much we do not know about the disease and how it will spread. Of course, workers have many questions and they are being called back in to work. Some answers to the most common questions asked by workers include:

  • The best material for masks. By this point in the pandemic, scientists have done an excellent job of determining what materials work best at filtering out small particles. HEPA furnace filters scored high, and other items like scarves and bandanas scored much lower.
  • The value of dexamethasone. The dexamethasone steroid is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients. The drug is believed to reduce inflammation.
  • Pandemic paid leave. The pandemic emergency relief package provides many American workers with paid leave if they need to take time off of work due to COVID-19. Workers are provided with two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined, or seeking diagnosis or care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members.
  • Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19. The evidence shows that COVID-19 transmits through asymptomatic carriers. As a result, it is important to understand that it is not enough to just be cautious of people who display the signs of the disease.

Speak with a Compassionate Long Island Employment Law Attorney

If you have questions about your employer testing workers for COVID-19, do not hesitate to call and speak with the Long Island employment lawyers at  Cohen & Jaffe LLP. Free, confidential consultations.

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