Many employers are quickly seeking solutions to help keep their employees safe and healthy amidst the current health crisis. To help expedite employers’ ability to protect the wellbeing of their teams, regulatory bodies are relaxing certain policies and guidance.
For employers needing to monitor their employees for the emergence of COVID-19 symptoms, it is critical that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules and regulations are followed to protect the privacy and rights of your employees.
No matter the format, employee health information should be treated as confidential and employers should take reasonable steps and put in place strict controls to protect employees’ rights and privacy, especially as it relates to protecting sensitive personal information, like health data.
Below are general questions regarding ADA and EEOC rules, as they related to your employee rights and amendments during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
Are ADA-covered employers allowed to take the body temperature of employees during the COVID-19 outbreak?
The CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, such as employers may now measure employees’ body temperature. As with all medical information, the fact that an employee had a fever or other symptoms would be subject to ADA confidentiality requirements (Source). The goal for collecting this information should be to determine whether an employee can be in the workplace, needs to self-quarantine at home, or should seek medical treatment.
It is important to note that not everyone with COVID-19 presents a fever as a symptom.
Validic recommends tracking temperature remotely, if possible, allowing a person to use their home thermometer to capture their reading. This reduces the contact between one device and multiple people. Additionally, within Validic’s COVID-19 solution, an employee must consent to participate in the program; they can do so via text and/or email. An employee may also remove themselves from the program at any time. This adds an additional authorization level to the process and control for keeping data digitally secure.
Do employers need to keep a separate file and keep confidential in relation to employee health data?
According to the ADA, any employment-related documentation containing medical information must be maintained in confidential files completely separate from the general personnel file. That way, medical information won’t be inadvertently shared with individuals who don’t have a legitimate business need to see it. (Source).
Bottom line: employers must protect employee’s privacy by making sure medical files are kept confidential, secure and separate from the general personnel file.
Can I share information to my company about an employee who is exhibiting symptoms?
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers should not, however, disclose to co-workers the identity of the quarantined employee because of confidentiality requirements under federal law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or state law, such as California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA), may apply. (Source) They may share a person’s identity on a need-to-know basis, such as a manager or supervisor.
Can an employer request information from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The EEOC has directly stated that: “During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.” (Source).
To address the COVID-19 outbreak, Validic released a standalone home monitoring solution specifically designed to continuously monitor vulnerable or exposed populations, such as on-site employees, for the emergence of COVID-19 symptoms. The solution is a secure, confidential electronic medical record and only appropriate HR resources should be given access to it by the organization to remain in compliance.
For information on responding to the coronavirus in the workplace go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html
For more information on Validic’s COVID-19 Home Monitoring Solution, please visit: www.covidmonitoring.com
View More >