Avoiding ADA Violations While Dealing With COVID-19 by Gaylord Gardner

Many employers are taking steps to protect all their employees and business from the COVID-19 coronavirus.  However, employers must be careful to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and must be careful regarding what they ask their employees.   Fortunately, the EEOC recently provided guidance regarding what questions an employer can ask an employee and what steps the employer can take while avoiding ADA violations.

Under the current guidance:

  • Employers may ask employees who report feeling ill at work, or who call in sick, questions about their symptoms to determine if they have or may have COVID-19.  For example, employers may ask employees if they are experiencing fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
  • Employers may measure an employee’s body temperature. 
  • Employers should follow the advice of the CDC and state/local public health authorities regarding information needed in order to permit a sick or potentially sick employee to return to the workplace.

However, employers should be aware that information regarding an employee having COVID-19 is medical information that is subject to ADA confidentiality requirements.  Therefore, employers should limit what information they share with other employees.   Employers should only inform other employees of the possible exposure to COVID-19, without identifying the affected employee or providing any identifying information (which might be job title or the department of the sick employee).

If you are having trouble determining what you can ask an employee or how to handle an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, one of our attorneys can assist you with determining how to protect your employees and business without violating the ADA.

Post authored by Gaylord Gardner