This is the first in a series of our blogs about coronavirus issues.
We have received several inquiries about whether employers may take employees’ temperatures to determine if they have the coronavirus. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from making medical inquiries of employees or requiring medical examinations unless they are job related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC has now issued guidance on this subject.
The EEOC stated: "Generally, measuring an employee's body temperature is a medical examination." Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and have issued related precautions, the EEOC concludes that "employers may measure employees' body temperature.” The agency added, however, that employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever, and that some people with a fever do not have COVID-19.
What if an employee refuses to allow his/her temperature to be taken? The EEOC did not address that issue, but we believe the employer is justified in sending the employee home. If the employee persists in the refusal, it is arguably insubordination and grounds for discipline. Employers who decide to take employees’ temperatures should provide advance written notice of the new rule to all employees.
When taking temperatures, employers should keep the reading confidential and train the person administering the check on the procedure. Precautions should also be taken to maintain social distancing and keep employees at least six feet apart if they are standing in line to have their temperature measured.
Feel free to contact us if you have questions about this matter.