Some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever. And some people with a fever do not have COVID-19.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig into exactly what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position is on taking the temperatures of employees now that at least some businesses are reopening.
The bottom line is that, yes, it’s legal to do so. After all, an infected employee may present a hazard not only to himself or herself, but also to co-workers and even customers.
Want better justification?
Well, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally considers the taking of an employee’s temperature to be a “medical examination,” which it defines as any “procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health.” Medical examinations of employees are allowed if – and only if – the employee poses a “direct threat” to their or others’ health or safety.
OK, so that’s the law. There is, of course, more to consider.
First, the temperature reading should be kept confidential and the person administering the temperature check should be trained on the procedure.
Be clear with your employees that the temperature test is being used solely to determine whether they may have a symptom of COVID-19, not to discover whether the employee has some other medical impairment or disability.
Don’t even think about using oral thermometers. You’ll want to buy infrared digital thermometers.
The CDC, not incidentally, has chosen to define a “fever” as 100.4°F or higher.
Also, to limit any legal exposure, employers taking their workers’ temperatures should be ready to pay employees who are sent home with high temperatures.
Employers also should consider what they’d do if employees refuse to have their temperatures taken. Would employers send these workers home without pay?
Companies are also allowed to screen prospective workers, the EEOC says. More specifically, its guidance provides that:
Screening workers’ temperatures may sound Draconian to some, but it couldn’t be as bad as getting sick.
Mike Burch is an insurance advisor in CCIG’s Employee Benefits department. Reach him at Mike.Burch@thinkccig.com or at 720-212-2070.
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