To assist you with handling COVID-19 positive cases in the workplace, we created a Responding to a Positive Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Checklist and Contact Tracing in the Workplace Form. Before implementing these tools, be sure to read the important considerations below.
As you know, the COVID-19 situation is growing. Public health guidance is rapidly changing as infectious disease experts learn more about the virus and conditions on the ground get worse or improve.
For example, and relevant to COVID-19 positive cases in the workplace, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently revised its definition of close contact as “being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.” The CDC also states individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes) count towards determining close contact.
What should you do?
Employers should regularly consult guidance not only from the CDC, but from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor (DOL), as well as their state and local public health departments throughout the course of this pandemic to ensure they are complying with the most updated guidelines.
Employers may ask all employees who will be physically entering the workplace if they have COVID-19 or symptoms associated with COVID-19 and ask if they have been tested for COVID19.
An employer may exclude those with COVID-19, or symptoms common with COVID-19, from the workplace because, as the EEOC has stated, their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. However, for those employees who are teleworking and are not physically interacting with coworkers or others (e.g., customers), an employer would generally not be permitted to ask these questions.
Consider teleworking options whenever possible. Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and should err on the side of caution before allowing an individual who is positive for COVID-19 to return to work. At the same time, employers must ensure they take all necessary steps to protect the identity of any employee who has tested positive for the coronavirus to the extent possible. Various laws protect against the release of this information. Thus, while employers should inform any affected coworkers of their possible exposure in the workplace, they should not reveal the identity of the employee(s) who tested positive.
Paid Sick Leave.
Effective April 1, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides for federally mandated emergency paid sick leave and paid expanded family and medical leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers should ensure individuals who have tested positive for the virus are aware of the FFCRA’s paid leave provisions. If the organization is covered under the FFCRA, there are certain requirements relating to employee eligibility, documentation, posting and compensation.
In addition, my states and localities have passed paid sick leave laws related to COVID-19. An employer also should continue to monitor state and local leave requirements to ensure compliance.
Employers may need to require reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act if an employee with COVID-19 gets severely sick or the disease complicates one or more preexisting health conditions or disabilities, as long as it does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. If you are unsure whether you need to engage in the interactive.
If necessary, employers should modify the checklist and form, so it follows any applicable state and local laws.
Download the Contact Tracing in the Workplace Form
Of course you can always contact one of our HR professionals anytime.