As an employer, are you unsure of what you’re allowed to do when trying to detect and respond to potential cases of COVID-19 in your workplace? Here are some answers.
EEOC guidance addresses screening employees for COVID-19
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has changed the way most employers are interacting with their employees. Many employers have sent employees home to work remotely, but this isn’t feasible in our industry. You may be wondering what you’re legally allowed to do in terms of screening your caregivers for the illness.
In March, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance in the form of a revised publication originally created during the H1N1 outbreak. Based on that guidance, here are steps you can take regarding screening your employees for COVID-19:
Perform body temperature checks. Under normal circumstances, you would be restricted from conducting medical examinations and inquiries under workplace anti-discrimination laws — notably, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. But the EEOC has stated that employers covered by the ADA may measure employees’ body temperatures to help guard against COVID-19, even though doing so would constitute a medical exam. The agency cautions that some people with COVID-19 don’t have a fever.
Ask them whether they’re symptomatic. The EEOC guidance allows household employers to ask employees who call in sick whenever they’re feeling symptoms consistent with COVID-19 so that they can assess the risk of infection to the family. The EEOC stipulates that employers must keep every employee’s health-related information confidential in compliance with the ADA.
Direct sick caregivers to leave and require them to produce a doctor’s note to return. The guidance recommends families follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice that employees who become symptomatic of COVID-19 leave work immediately, return home, contact their physicians and self-quarantine. Employers may, without compromising ADA compliance, stipulate that any such employee present a doctor’s certification to return to work.
Update your hiring process. Employers can screen for COVID-19 when hiring. In fact, the EEOC mandates such screening for “all entering employees in the same type of job.” Doing so may include taking an applicant’s temperature during post-offer and pre-employment medical examinations. You may delay the start date of any symptomatic new hire and even withdraw a job offer to an employee who must start right away but is suffering from COVID-19 or has symptoms consistent with the illness.
The pandemic is driving rapid change in the flexibility and application of many laws and regulations. Consult an employment attorney on the legal implications of any employment or hiring action you’re considering. Please contact us for help assessing and managing the current considerable financial challenges of being an employer.
Paying for employee absences due to COVID-19
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates employers with less then 500 employees pay for emergency sick leave and emergency family medical leave taken by the employee for many circumstances surrounding managing the Coronavirus pandemic. The employee may receive full or partial pay for up to 12 weeks, depending on the circumstances.
We urge you to consult our Knowledge Center to stay up to date.
Who is paying for this?
While this legislation imposes a significant mandate on small employers, it includes amechanism for 100% employer reimbursement! The legislation provides a REFUNDABLE tax credit, dollar for dollar, to the employer. The exact method through which household employers can claim the refundable credit is to be announced by the Internal Revenue Code, but at worst you will be able to take the credit when payin your federal tax liabilities and filing your IRS Form 1040 Schedule H at year end.
HWS clients are reminded to contact us if you are paying emergency paid sick or family leave so we can update your account to keep proper records, and assist you with the reimbursement process when guidance is provided by the IRS.
Assess the impact
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act applies to paid leave taken after April 1, 2020. HomeWork Solutions can provide further details on how it may affect you.