Now that employers may start bringing employees back into the workplace or hiring new employees, they should be aware of permissible actions to avoid subjecting workers to the COVID virus.
Employers may give employees daily temperature checks to determine if an employee may have the virus. The tests should comply with guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or other public health authorities to ensure safety and accuracy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cautions that some tests may cause false-positives or false-negatives, but reasonable reliance on approved tests should protect an employer from liability.
During a pandemic, employers may ask 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 may require employees to stay at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
Employers should look to the CDC, other public health authorities, and “reputable medical sources” for guidance on what questions they might want to ask when screening workers coming into the workplace to see if those workers pose a threat to others.
An employer may delay the start date for a new employee, or withdraw a job offer, if the employee is needed immediately and tests positive or is subject to quarantine. Currently, an employer can require an employee to wait 14 days before returning to work if the employee has symptoms. However, employers may not delay the start date for those who are 65 or older, or pregnant women, because they are in a COVID-19 high risk category.
Employers are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to store medical information about workers separately from their personnel files, though they can keep information related to COVID-19 in the employees’ existing medical files. Employers should not share test results with other employees, although managers will need to know who is returning. Employers should minimize the persons who may obtain employee medical information. The EEOC has stated that employers can tell public health agencies the names of workers they learn have COVID-19.
A comprehensive summary of Governor Brian Kemp's "Reviving a Healthy Georgia" Executive Order is available here.