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COVID-19 and the Workplace

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC has) provided guidance that can help employers implement strategies to navigate the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. This pandemic publication, which was written during the prior H1N1 outbreak, is still relevant today and identifies established ADA and Rehabilitation Act principles to answer questions frequently asked about the workplace during a pandemic.  Applying these principles to the COVID-19 pandemic, the following may be useful:

    • When employees return to work, does the ADA allow employers to require doctors’ notes certifying their fitness for duty?
      • Yes. Such inquiries are permitted under the ADA either because they would not be disability-related or, if the pandemic influenza were truly severe, they would be justified under the ADA standards for disability-related inquiries of employees. As a practical matter, however, doctors and other health care professionals may be too busy during and immediately after a pandemic outbreak to provide fitness-for-duty documentation. Therefore, 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.
    • If an employer is hiring, may it screen applicants for symptoms of COVID-19?
      • Yes. An employer may screen job applicants for symptoms of COVID-19 after making a conditional job offer, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same type of job.  This ADA rule applies whether or not the applicant has a disability.
    • May an employer take an applicant’s temperature as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical exam?
      • Yes.  Any medical exams are permitted after an employer has made a conditional offer of employment.  However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.
    • May an employer delay the start date of an applicant who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it? 
      • Yes.  According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.
    • May an employer withdraw a job offer when it needs the applicant to start immediately but the individual has COVID-19 or symptoms of it?
      • Based on current CDC guidance, this individual cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer may withdraw the job offer.

The complete report is available on the ICADV COVID-19 Resource Page.

For more information or help with questions, please contact ICADV Legal Counsel Kerry Hyatt Bennett at kbennett@icadvinc.org

 

 

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