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EEOC Approves Screening for COVID-19 Before Employees Return To Work

April 27, 2020

By Kathryn M. Hindman

Preparing us for the inevitable return from this pandemic, the EEOC asks and answers one new question in its “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO laws” Technical Assistance:
 
“A.6. May an employer administer a COVID-19 test (a test to detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus) before permitting employees to enter the workplace?” 4/23/20

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA requires that any mandatory medical test of employees be "job related and consistent with business necessity."  Applying this standard to the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may take steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others. Therefore, an employer may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before they enter the workplace to determine if they have the virus.

Consistent with the ADA standard, employers should ensure that the tests are accurate and reliable.  For example, employers may review guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about what may or may not be considered safe and accurate testing, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other public health authorities, and check for updates.  Employers may wish to consider the incidence of false-positives or false-negatives associated with a particular test.  Finally, note that accurate testing only reveals if the virus is currently present; a negative test does not mean the employee will not acquire the virus later.
 
Based on guidance from medical and public health authorities, employers should still require - to the greatest extent possible - that employees observe infection control practices (such as social distancing, regular handwashing, and other measures) in the workplace to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

For a summary of prior pandemic Q&A’s, visit the Bullard Law COVID-19 Resource Center.


 
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