May an employer delay the start date of an applicant who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it? (3/18/20)

Yes. According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.


When may an ADA-covered employer take the body temperature of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic? (3/17/20)

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.


When screening employees entering the workplace during this time, may an employer only ask employees about the COVID-19 symptoms EEOC has identified as examples, or may it ask about any symptoms identified by public health authorities as associated with COVID-19? (4/9/20)

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


May an employer withdraw a job offer when it needs the applicant to start immediately but the individual has COVID-19 or symptoms of it? (3/18/20)

Based on current CDC guidance, this individual cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer may withdraw the job offer.


May an employer postpone the start date or withdraw a job offer because the individual is 65 years old or pregnant, both of which place them at higher risk from COVID-19? (4/9/20)

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.


If a job may only be performed at the workplace, are there reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, absent undue hardship, that could offer protection to an employee who, due to a preexisting disability, is at higher risk from COVID-19? (4/9/20)

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.


Do the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act apply to applicants or employees who are classified as “critical infrastructure workers” or “essential critical workers” by the CDC? (4/23/20)

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.

As government stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are modified or lifted in your area, how will employers know what steps they can take consistent with the ADA to screen employees for COVID-19 when entering the workplace? (4/17/20)

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.


The CDC identifies a number of medical conditions that might place individuals at “higher risk for severe illness” if they get COVID-19. An employer knows that an employee has one of these conditions and is concerned that his health will be jeopardized upon returning to the workplace, but the employee has not requested accommodation. How does the ADA apply to this situation? (5/7/20)

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 CDC has explained that individuals age 65 and over are at higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19 if they contract the virus and therefore has encouraged employers to offer maximum flexibilities to this group. Do employees age 65 and over have protections under the federal employment discrimination laws? (6/11/20)

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.


What testing does the CDC recommend for employees in the workplace?

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 againViral 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.


What should I do if I find out several days later, after an employee has worked, that they were diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee used the facility, clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
  • If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
  • Other employees may have been exposed to the virus if they were in “close contact” (within approximately 6 feet) of the sick employee for a prolonged period of time.
    • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
    • Those who have symptoms should self-isolate and follow CDC recommended steps.
    • In most workplaces, those potentially exposed but with no symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.
    • Critical infrastructure employees should follow Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Employees Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19. A critical infrastructure employee who is symptom-free and returns to work should wear a cloth face covering at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue cloth face coverings or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
  • Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.


What should I do if an employee has a respiratory illness?

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.


What does “acute” respiratory illness mean?

“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).

Are allergy symptoms considered an acute respiratory illness?

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.


How do I keep employees who interact with customers safe?

To keep your employees safe, you should:

  • Consider options to increase physical space between employees and customers such as opening a drive- through, erecting partitions, and marking floors to guide spacing at least 6 feet apart.
  • At least once a day, clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people. This includes door handles, desks, phones, light switches, and faucets.
  • Consider assigning a person to rotate throughout the workplace to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Consider scheduling handwashing breaks so employees can wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Consider scheduling a relief person to give cashiers and service desk employees an opportunity to wash their hands.
  • Additional information on how to keep employees safe can be found in the CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers.


What can be done to protect employees who cannot maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from employees or customers?

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.

  • Make sure the workspace is well-ventilatedexternal icon.
  • Change the alignment of workstations where feasible. For example, redesign workstations so employees are not facing each other.
  • Consider making foot traffic one-way in narrow or confined areas, such as aisles and stairwells, to encourage single-file movement at a 6-foot distance.
  • Set up, where possible, physical barriers between employees, and between employees and customers.
    • Use strip curtains, plastic barriers, or similar materials to create impermeable dividers or partitions.
  • Move electronic payment terminals/credit card readers farther away from the cashier to increase the distance between the customer and the cashier.
  • Use visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, and signs to remind employees to maintain distance of 6 feet from others, including at their workstation and in break areas.
    • Consider these cues for customers as well, such as at the entrance or checkout line.
  • Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol throughout the workplace for employees and customers.
    • Use touch-free stations where possible.
    • Make sure restrooms are well-stocked with soap and paper towels.

Provide training and other administrative policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Use cloth face coverings as appropriate.

  • Recommend employees wear a cloth face covering.
    • Cloth face coverings are intended to protect other people—not the wearer. They are not considered PPE.
    • Train employees how to put on and take off cloth face coverings to avoid contamination.
    • Cloth face coverings should be washed and dried after each use.
    • 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.
  • Recommend that visitors to the workplace (service personnel, customers) also wear cloth face coverings.

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.


How can I help protect employees who may be at higher risk for severe illness?

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:

  • Implementing telework and other social distancing practices
  • Actively encouraging employees to stay home when sick
  • Providing sick leave
  • Promoting handwashing
  • Providing supplies and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for cleaning and disinfecting workspaces
  • Requiring all employees to wear cloth face coverings

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.


What does source control mean?

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.

Are cloth face coverings considered personal protective equipment (PPE)?

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.


What is a cloth face covering not appropriate while at work, and what can employees wear instead?

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:

  • If they have trouble breathing.
  • If they are unable to remove it without help.
  • If it interferes with vision, glasses, or eye protection.
  • If straps, strings, or other parts of the covering could get caught in equipment.
  • If other work hazards associated with wearing the covering are identified and cannot be addressed without removal of the face covering.

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.


As a best practice, and in advance of having some or all employees return to the workplace, are there ways for an employer to invite employees to request flexibility in work arrangements? (6/11/20)

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.


How should cloth face coverings worn at work be handled, stored and washed?

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.


How often should my employees wash their hands while at work?

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:

  • After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • After using the toilet
  • After touching garbage
  • Before and after the work shift
  • Before and after work breaks
  • After touching objects that have been handled by customers or other employees

What can I tell my employees about reducing the spread of COVID-19 at work?

Employees should take the following steps to protect themselves at work:

  • Follow the policies and procedures of the employer related to illness, cleaning and disinfecting, and work meetings and travel.
  • Stay home if sick, except to get medical care.
  • Practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from fellow co-employees, customers, and visitors when possible.
  • Wear cloth face coverings, especially when social distancing is not possible.
  • Employees should inform their supervisor if they or their colleagues develop symptoms at work. No one with COVID-19 symptoms should be present at the workplace.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing noses, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
    • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, etc.
  • Where possible, avoid direct physical contact such as shaking hands with people.
  • Minimize handling cash, credit cards, and mobile or electronic devices when possible.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel.


Should we be screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms (such as temperature checks)? What is the best way to do that?

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:

  • Symptoms of COVID-19
  • Fever equal to or higher than 100.4oF*
  • Are under evaluation for COVID-19 (for example, waiting for the results of a viral test to confirm infection)
  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and not yet cleared to discontinue isolation

*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:

  • Fever or feeling feverish (chills, sweating)
  • New cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • New loss of taste or smell

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:

  • Reliance on Social Distancing: Ask employees to take their own temperature either before coming to the workplace or upon arrival at the workplace. Upon their arrival, stand at least 6 feet away from the employee and:
    • Ask the employee to confirm that their temperature is less than 100.4F (38.0o C) and confirm that they are not experiencing coughing or shortness of breath.
    • Make a visual inspection of the employee for signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks or fatigue.
    • Screening staff do not need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) if they can maintain a distance of 6 feet.
  • Reliance on Barrier/Partition Controls: During screening, the screener stands behind a physical barrier, such as a glass or plastic window or partition, that can protect the screener’s face and mucous membranes from respiratory droplets that may be produced when the employee sneezes, coughs, or talks. Upon arrival, the screener should wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Then:
    • Make a visual inspection of the employee for signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks or fatigue.
    • Conduct temperature and symptom screening using this protocol:
      • Put on disposable gloves.
      • Check the employee’s temperature, reaching around the partition or through the window. Make sure the screener’s face stays behind the barrier at all times during the screening.
      • If performing a temperature check on multiple individuals, make sure that you use a clean pair of gloves for each employee and that the thermometer has been thoroughly cleaned in between each check. If disposable or non-contact thermometers are used and you did not have physical contact with an individual, you do not need to change gloves before the next check. If non-contact thermometers are used, clean and disinfect them according to manufacturer’s instructions and facility policies.
    • Remove and discard PPE (gloves), and wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

    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.

    • Reliance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Upon arrival, the screener should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, put on a face mask, eye protection (goggles or disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face), and a single pair of disposable gloves. A gown could be considered if extensive contact with an employee is anticipated. Then:
      • Make a visual inspection of the employee for signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks or fatigue, and confirm that the employee is not experiencing coughing or shortness of breath.
      • Take the employee’s temperature.
        • If performing a temperature check on multiple individuals, make sure that you use a clean pair of gloves for each employee and that the thermometer has been thoroughly cleaned in between each check. If disposable or non-contact thermometers are used and you did not have physical contact with an individual, you do not need to change gloves before the next check. If non-contact thermometers are used, you should clean and disinfect them according to manufacturer’s instructions and facility policies.
      • After each screening or after several screenings, where you did not have physical contact with an individual, remove and discard PPE and wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

How do I handle personal protective equipment (PPE) waste?

Discard PPE into a trash can. Facility waste does not need disinfection.


What is social distancing and how can my workplace do that?

Social distancing means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (at least 6 feet) from others when possible. Strategies that businesses could use include:

  • Allowing flexible worksites (such as telework)
  • Allowing flexible work hours (such as staggered shifts)
  • Increasing physical space between employees at the worksite
  • Increasing physical space between employees and customers (such as a drive-through and partitions)
  • Implementing flexible meeting and travel options (such as postponing non-essential meetings or events)
  • Delivering services remotely (e.g., phone, video, or web)
  • Delivering products through curbside pick-up or delivery


I don’t provide paid sick leave to my employees. What should I do?

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.


Should I require employees to provide a doctor’s note or positive COVID-19 test result?

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.


Should I cancel my meetings and conferences?

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.


What measures should be taken to protect an employee who must travel for work?

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:

  • Schedule travel to limit the distance travelled and need for overnight lodging.
  • If multi-day travel is necessary, coordinate with travel preparers to identify hotels that disinfect rooms between stays and regularly disinfect surfaces in common areas.
  • Provide employees with forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others such as fleet vehicles or rental vehicles.
  • If public transportation is used, ask employees to follow the CDC guidance on how to protect yourself when using transportation.
  • If flying is necessary, select seats on flights that provide the greatest distance between other travelers and choose direct flights, if possible.
  • Disinfect surfaces of rental cars or fleet vehicles (e.g., steering wheel, shifter, arm rests, etc.) between each use, using products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2external icon.
  • Make sure employees are provided with the necessary supplies and understand protective measures they can take while traveling. These measures include:
    • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people (social distancing) as much as possible during travel.
    • Wear cloth face coverings when a distance of 6 feet is difficult to maintain, such as in airports, airplanes, and public transportation.
    • Use disinfecting wipes to clean commonly touched surfaces inside vehicles and airplanes.
    • Consider ordering food for pickup or delivery rather than eating out at restaurants.
    • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer regularly.
  • Ensure that employees know that if they get sick they should stay home (not travel) or return home (if traveling) provided it is feasible for them to travel without endangering themselves or others.
  • Make sure employees know who to contact if they are sick.

For more information, see CDC guidance for travel in the United States


How do I clean and disinfect machinery or equipment?

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.


How can I safely use cleaning chemicals?

Follow safe work practices when using cleaning chemicalspdf icon:

  • Always wear gloves appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed based on the setting and product you are using.
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner.
  • Make sure that employees know which cleaning chemicals must be diluted and how to correctly dilute the cleaners they are using.
  • Employers must ensure employees are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200external icon).
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for concentration, application method, and contact time.


In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, what can I do to decrease the spread of disease in my workplace?

Employers can also:

  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Provide soap and water in the workplace. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. If hands are visibly dirty, soap and water should be chosen over hand sanitizer.
  • Place hand sanitizer in multiple locations to encourage good hand hygiene practices.
  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, the importance of hand hygiene, and coughing and sneezing etiquette at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where employees are likely to see them.
  • Discourage handshaking.


Should I adjust my ventilation system?

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.


How should restrooms be cleaned and disinfected?

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.


If I shut down my facility as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak, what is the recommended way to clean and disinfect, and what is the appropriate time-frame to resume operations?

  • Follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection.
  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.

Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas including offices, bathrooms, and common areas, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.

  • Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Next, disinfect surfaces using products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2external icon, the virus that causes COVID-19, and that are appropriate for the surface.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for concentration, application method, contact time, and required PPE.

Operations can resume as soon as the cleaning and disinfection are completed.


Should I allow critical infrastructure employees to work if they have been exposed but are not showing symptoms of COVID-19?

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:

  • Pre-screen for symptoms
  • Monitor regularly for symptoms
  • Wear a cloth face covering
  • Practice social distancing
  • Clean and disinfect workspaces

Employees with symptoms should be sent home and should not return to the workplace until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.

See Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Employees Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 for more information.


Is other specific CDC guidance available for critical infrastructure workplaces?

CDC has guidance for first responders and law enforcement as well as a series of fact sheets for specific critical infrastructure employee groups. Unless otherwise specified, the CDC interim guidance for businesses and employers applies to critical infrastructure workplaces as well.