Yes. According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.
Yes. According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.
Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. Because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, employers may measure employees’ body temperature. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.
As public health authorities and doctors learn more about COVID-19, they may expand the list of associated symptoms. Employers should rely on the CDC, other public health authorities, and reputable medical sources for guidance on emerging symptoms associated with the disease. These sources may guide employers when choosing questions to ask employees to determine whether they would pose a direct threat to health in the workplace. For example, additional symptoms beyond fever or cough may include new loss of smell or taste as well as gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
Based on current CDC guidance, this individual cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer may withdraw the job offer.
No. The fact that the CDC has identified those who are 65 or older, or pregnant women, as being at greater risk does not justify unilaterally postponing the start date or withdrawing a job offer. However, an employer may choose to allow telework or to discuss with these individuals if they would like to postpone the start date.
There may be reasonable accommodations that could offer protection to an individual whose disability puts him at greater risk from COVID-19 and who therefore requests such actions to eliminate possible exposure. Even with the constraints imposed by a pandemic, some accommodations may meet an employee’s needs on a temporary basis without causing undue hardship on the employer.
Low-cost solutions achieved with materials already on hand or easily obtained may be effective. If not already implemented for all employees, accommodations for those who request reduced contact with others due to a disability may include changes to the work environment such as designating one-way aisles; using plexiglass, tables, or other barriers to ensure minimum distances between customers and coworkers whenever feasible per CDC guidance or other accommodations that reduce chances of exposure.
Flexibility by employers and employees is important in determining if some accommodation is possible in the circumstances. Temporary job restructuring of marginal job duties, temporary transfers to a different position, or modifying a work schedule or shift assignment may also permit an individual with a disability to perform safely the essential functions of the job while reducing exposure to others in the workplace or while commuting.
Yes. These CDC designations, or any other designations of certain employees, do not eliminate coverage under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act, or any other equal employment opportunity law. Therefore, employers receiving requests for reasonable accommodation under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act from employees falling in these categories of jobs must accept and process the requests as they would for any other employee. Whether the request is granted will depend on whether the worker is an individual with a disability, and whether there is a reasonable accommodation that can be provided absent undue hardship.
The ADA permits employers to make disability-related inquiries and conduct medical exams if job-related and consistent with business necessity. Inquiries and reliable medical exams meet this standard if it is necessary to exclude employees with a medical condition that would pose a direct threat to health or safety.
Direct threat is to be determined based on the best available objective medical evidence. The guidance from CDC or other public health authorities is such evidence. Therefore, employers will be acting consistent with the ADA as long as any screening implemented is consistent with advice from the CDC and public health authorities for that type of workplace at that time.
For example, this may include continuing to take temperatures and asking questions about symptoms (or require self-reporting) of all those entering the workplace. Similarly, the CDC recently posted information on return by certain types of critical workers.
Employers should make sure not to engage in unlawful disparate treatment based on protected characteristics in decisions related to screening and exclusion.
First, if the employee does not request a reasonable accommodation, the ADA does not mandate that the employer take action.
If the employer is concerned about the employee’s health being jeopardized upon returning to the workplace, the ADA does not allow the employer to exclude the employee – or take any other adverse action – solely because the employee has a disability that the CDC identifies as potentially placing him at “higher risk for severe illness” if he gets COVID-19. Under the ADA, such action is not allowed unless the employee’s disability poses a “direct threat” to his health that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.
The ADA direct threat requirement is a high standard. As an affirmative defense, direct threat requires an employer to show that the individual has a disability that poses a “significant risk of substantial harm” to his own health under 29 C.F.R. section 1630.2(r) (regulation addressing direct threat to health or safety of self or others). A direct threat assessment cannot be based solely on the condition being on the CDC’s list; the determination must be an individualized assessment based on a reasonable medical judgment about this employee’s disability – not the disability in general – using the most current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective evidence. The ADA regulation requires an employer to consider the duration of the risk, the nature and severity of the potential harm, the likelihood that the potential harm will occur, and the imminence of the potential harm. Analysis of these factors will likely include considerations based on the severity of the pandemic in a particular area and the employee’s own health (for example, is the employee’s disability well-controlled), and his particular job duties. A determination of direct threat also would include the likelihood that an individual will be exposed to the virus at the worksite. Measures that an employer may be taking in general to protect all workers, such as mandatory social distancing, also would be relevant.
Even if an employer determines that an employee’s disability poses a direct threat to his own health, the employer still cannot exclude the employee from the workplace – or take any other adverse action – unless there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation (absent undue hardship). The ADA regulations require an employer to consider whether there are reasonable accommodations that would eliminate or reduce the risk so that it would be safe for the employee to return to the workplace while still permitting performance of essential functions. This can involve an interactive process with the employee. If there are not accommodations that permit this, then an employer must consider accommodations such as telework, leave, or reassignment (perhaps to a different job in a place where it may be safer for the employee to work or that permits telework). An employer may only bar an employee from the workplace if, after going through all these steps, the facts support the conclusion that the employee poses a significant risk of substantial harm to himself that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employment discrimination against individuals age 40 and older. The ADEA would prohibit a covered employer from involuntarily excluding an individual from the workplace based on his or her being 65 or older, even if the employer acted for benevolent reasons such as protecting the employee due to higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Unlike the ADA, the ADEA does not include a right to reasonable accommodation for older workers due to age. However, employers are free to provide flexibility to workers age 65 and older; the ADEA does not prohibit this, even if it results in younger workers ages 40-64 being treated less favorably based on age in comparison.
Workers age 65 and older also may have medical conditions that bring them under the protection of the ADA as individuals with disabilities. As such, they may request reasonable accommodation for their disability as opposed to their age.
CDC does NOT recommend that employers use antibody tests to determine which employees can work. Antibody tests check a blood sample for past infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. CDC does not yet know if people who recover from COVID-19 can get infected again. Viral tests check a respiratory sample (such as swabs of the inside of the nose) for current infection with SARS-CoV-2.
CDC has published strategies for consideration of incorporating viral testing for SARS-CoV-2 into a workplace COVID-19 preparedness, response, and control plan.
Different states and jurisdictions may have their own guidance and priorities for viral testing in workplaces. Testing in the workplace could be arranged through a company’s occupational health provider or in consultation with the local or state health department.
Employees who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival to work or become sick during the day with COVID-19 symptoms should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home. Sick employees should follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
CDC has a symptom self-checker chatbot that employers and employees may find helpful. It has a series of questions and recommends what level of medical care, if any, the user should seek. It is not intended to provide diagnosis or treatment.
“Acute” respiratory illness is an infection of the upper or lower respiratory tract that may interfere with normal breathing, such as COVID-19. “Acute” means of recent onset (for example, for a few days), and is used to distinguish from chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
No. Allergy symptoms are not considered an acute respiratory illness. However, there is some overlap between common seasonal allergy symptoms and some of the symptoms that have been reported by people with COVID-19 (e.g., headache, sneezing, cough). It is important to take into account whether an individual’s symptoms are compatible with the usual symptoms and timing for allergy in that person.
To keep your employees safe, you should:
Evaluate your workplace to identify situations where employees cannot maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other and/or customers. Use appropriate combinations of controls following the hierarchy of controls to addresses these situations to limit the spread of COVID-19. A committee of both employees and management may be the most effective way to recognize all of these scenarios.
It is important to note that control recommendations or interventions assigned to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 must be compatible with any safety programs and personal protective equipment (PPE) normally required for the job task.
Approaches to consider may include the following:
Alter the workspace using engineering controls to prevent exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Provide training and other administrative policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Use cloth face coverings as appropriate.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is the last step in the hierarchy of controls because it is harder to use effectively than other measures. To be protective and not introduce an additional hazard, the use of PPE requires characterization of the environment, knowledge of the hazard, training, and consistent correct use. This is why administrative and engineering controls are emphasized in guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the current pandemic, use of PPE such as surgical masks or N-95 respirators is being prioritized for healthcare employees and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance unless they were required for the job before the pandemic.
Have conversations with employees if they express concerns. Some people may be at higher risk of severe illness. This includes older adults (65 years and older) and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions. By using strategies that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, you will help protect all employees, including those at higher risk. These strategies include:
In workplaces where it is not possible to eliminate face-to-face contact (such as retail), consider assigning employees who are at higher risk of severe illness work tasks that allow them to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, if feasible.
Employers should not require employees to provide a note from their healthcare provider when they are sick and instead allow them to inform their supervisors or employee health services when they have conditions that put them at higher risk for diseases.
Source control is a term used to describe measures (e.g., cloth face coverings or face shields) intended to prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading the disease to others. COVID-19 is spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Evidence suggests that people who have mild symptoms or no symptoms can spread it to others without realizing they are infected. Cloth face coverings and face shields are types of source control that provide a barrier between droplets produced from a potentially infected person and other people, reducing the likelihood of transmitting the virus.
No, cloth face coverings are not PPE. These face coverings are not respirators and are not appropriate substitutes for them in workplaces where respirators are recommended or required for respiratory protection.
Cloth face coverings can prevent the wearer from spreading COVID-19 to others, but they may not always be appropriate. Employees should consider using an alternative under certain conditions at work, including:
Cloth face coverings should not be worn if their use creates a new risk (e.g., interferes with driving or vision, contributes to heat-related illness) that exceeds their benefit of slowing the spread of the virus.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)pdf iconexternal icon suggests that an employee wear a face shield if a cloth face covering is recommended but the employee cannot tolerate wearing a cloth face covering. If used, a face shield should cover the entire front and sides of the face and extend below the chin.
Yes. The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act permit employers to make information available in advance to all employees about who to contact – if they wish – to request accommodation for a disability that they may need upon return to the workplace, even if no date has been announced for their return. If requests are received in advance, the employer may begin the interactive process. An employer may choose to include in such a notice all the CDC-listed medical conditions that may place people at higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, provide instructions about who to contact, and explain that the employer is willing to consider on a case-by-case basis any requests from employees who have these or other medical conditions.
An employer also may send a general notice to all employees who are designated for returning to the workplace, noting that the employer is willing to consider requests for accommodation or flexibilities on an individualized basis. The employer should specify if the contacts differ depending on the reason for the request – for example, if the office or person to contact is different for employees with disabilities or pregnant workers than for employees whose request is based on age or child-care responsibilities.
Either approach is consistent with the ADEA, the ADA, and the May 29, 2020 CDC guidance that emphasizes the importance of employers providing accommodations or flexibilities to employees who, due to age or certain medical conditions, are at higher risk for severe illness.
Regardless of the approach, however, employers should ensure that whoever receives inquiries knows how to handle them consistent with the different federal employment nondiscrimination laws that may apply, for instance, with respect to accommodations due to a medical condition, a religious belief, or pregnancy.
When wearing a cloth face covering, it should fit over the nose and mouth, fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, and be secured with ties or ear loops. The cloth face covering should allow the wearer to breathe without restriction.
Employees should avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth as well as the inside or outside of the face covering while putting on, wearing, and removing it. When putting on and removing it, they should only touch the ties or ear loops.
If storing the cloth face covering while at work, employees should place the used cloth face covering into a container or paper bag labeled with the employee’s name.
Cloth face coverings should not be shared with others unless they are washed and dried first.
If the cloth face covering becomes wet, visibly soiled, or contaminated at work, it should be removed and stored to be laundered later. The employee should put on a clean cloth face covering or disposable face mask. If cloth face coverings are provided by the employer, a clean face covering should be issued to replace the soiled one.
Employees should wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings. If soap and water are not available, they should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Laundry instructions depend on the cloth used to make the face covering. In general, cloth face coverings should be washed regularly (e.g., daily after each shift) using water and a mild detergent and dried completely in a hot dryer. If a washing machine and dryer are not available, an alternative is to soak the cloth face covering in a diluted bleach (0.1%) solution, rinse, and air dry completely. Hands should be washed before laundering the cloth face coverings.
CDC recommends employees protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions, including good hand hygiene. Employees should wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available, especially during key times when persons are likely to be infected by or spread germs:
Employees should take the following steps to protect themselves at work:
Screening employees is an optional strategy that employers may use. Performing screening or health checks will not be completely effective because asymptomatic individuals or individuals with mild non-specific symptoms may not realize they are infected and may pass through screening. Screening and health checks are not a replacement for other protective measures such as social distancing.
Consider encouraging individuals planning to enter the workplace to self-screen prior to coming onsite and not to attempt to enter the workplace if any of the following are present:
*A lower temperature threshold (e.g., 100.0oF) may be used, especially in healthcare settings.
Content of screening questions
If you decide to actively screen employees for symptoms rather than relying on self-screening, consider which symptoms to include in your assessment. Although there are many different symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19, you may not want to treat every employee with a single non-specific symptom (e.g., a headache) as a suspect case of COVID-19 and send them home until they meet criteria for discontinuation of isolation.
Consider focusing the screening questions on “new” or “unexpected” symptoms (e.g., a chronic cough would not be a positive screen). Consider including these symptoms:
Protection of screeners
There are several methods that employers can use to protect the employee conducting the screening. The most protective methods incorporate social distancing (maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others), or physical barriers to eliminate or minimize the screener’s exposures due to close contact with a person who has symptoms during screening. Examples to consider that incorporate these types of controls for temperature screening include:
If social distance or barrier controls cannot be implemented during screening, PPE can be used when the screener is within 6 feet of an employee during screening. However, reliance on PPE alone is a less effective control and more difficult to implement given PPE shortages and training requirements.
Discard PPE into a trash can. Facility waste does not need disinfection.
Social distancing means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (at least 6 feet) from others when possible. Strategies that businesses could use include:
Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies. Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Actexternal icon (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employers with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for 100% tax credits for Families First Coronavirus Response Act COVID-19 paid leave provided through December 31, 2020, up to certain limits.
Employers should not require sick employees to provide a COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
Carefully consider whether travel is necessary and use videoconferencing or teleconferencing when possible for work-related meetings and gatherings. Employers should consider canceling, adjusting, or postponing large work-related meetings or gatherings that can only occur in-person. Follow CDC guidance for events and mass gatherings and consider resuming non-essential travel in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance.
When videoconferencing or teleconferencing is not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces, and space chairs at least 6 feet apart. Encourage staff and attendees to stay home if sick.
Although travel should be minimized as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, many jobs require travel, and it may not be possible to conduct certain job duties using virtual tools. The following measures may be taken to protect employees while traveling:
For more information, see CDC guidance for travel in the United States
Current evidence, though still preliminary, suggests that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
If the machinery or equipment in question are not accessible to employees or have not been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, they will not present an exposure hazard.
If machinery or equipment are thought to be contaminated and can be cleaned, follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations. First, clean dirty surfaces with soap and water. Second, disinfect surfaces using products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2external icon and are appropriate for the surface.
If machinery or equipment are thought to be contaminated and cannot be cleaned, they can be isolated. Isolate papers or any soft (porous) surfaces for a minimum of 24 hours before handling. After 24 hours, remove soft materials from the area and clean the hard (non-porous) surfaces per the cleaning and disinfection recommendations. Isolate hard (non-porous) surfaces that cannot be cleaned and disinfected for a minimum of 7 days before handling.
Employers can also:
The risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 through ventilation systems has not been studied but is likely low. Routine HVAC maintenance is recommended. Although it is never the first line of prevention, consider general ventilation adjustments in your workplace, such as increasing ventilation and increasing the amount of outdoor air used by the system. Maintain the indoor air temperature and humidity at comfortable levels for building occupants.
CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have jointly developed guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, including restrooms. Employers should develop a plan for routine cleaning and disinfection, including the regular cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, toilets, and other restroom furnishings.
Custodial staff should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) based on the setting and cleaning product they are using. To protect your staff and ensure that the products are used effectively, staff should be instructed on how to apply the disinfectants according to label instructions and precautions. Consider posting a cleaning schedule in the restrooms and marking off when each round of cleaning is completed.
Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas including offices, bathrooms, and common areas, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
Operations can resume as soon as the cleaning and disinfection are completed.
Functioning critical infrastructurepdf iconexternal icon is imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency, for both public health and safety as well as community well-being. When continuous remote work is not possible, critical infrastructure businesses should use strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, separating staff by off-setting shift hours or days and implementing social distancing. These steps can preserve and protect the workforce and allow operations to continue.
To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure employees may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional safety practices are implemented to protect them and the community. However, reintegrating exposed, asymptomatic employees to onsite operations, while discussed in the critical infrastructure guidance, should not be misinterpreted as always being the first or most appropriate option to pursue in managing critical work tasks. Staying home may still be the most preferred and protective option for exposed employees. Critical infrastructure businesses have an obligation to limit, to the extent possible, the reintegration of in-person employees who have experienced an exposure to COVID-19 but remain symptom-free in ways that best protect the health of the employee, their co-employees, and the general public.
Create a critical infrastructure sector response plan. Cross-training employees to perform critical job functions so the workplace can operate even if key employees are absent and match critical job functions with other equally skilled and available employees who have not experienced an exposure to COVID-19.
Critical infrastructure employees who have been exposed but remain symptom-free and must return to in-person work should adhere to the following practices before and during their work shift:
Employees with symptoms should be sent home and should not return to the workplace until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.