- Employers may ask workers about potential COVID-19 symptoms and take their temperatures, if certain rules are followed, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in a guidance updated April 17.
- In the guidance, the commission reminded employers that federal equal employment opportunity laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are still in force as the nation grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- Among other things, the document instructions employers that all medical information about a particular employee must stored separately from the employee's personnel file. "This includes an employee's statement that he has the disease or suspects he has the disease, or the employer's notes or other documentation from questioning an employee about symptoms," EEOC said. Temperature logs also must be kept confidential, it added.
The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, prohibiting discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment. The law and EEOC's regulations limit when and how employers can conduct medical exams and request medical information, but the agency makes some allowances for pandemics, as outlined in the updated guidance.
The agency also recently cautioned employers that race and national origin nondiscrimination mandates remain in effect; HR professionals should be mindful of harassment, intimidation or discrimination in the workplace against Asian Americans or people of Asian descent during the novel Coronavirus pandemic, EEOC's chair said in a March statement.
To assist employers with compliance efforts, the agency in its updated guidance provided links to harassment prevention tools such as policy tips for small businesses; recommendations for designing effective anti-harassment policies; and sample harassment responses.
Other federal officials have similarly reminded employer that other laws apply during the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced novel coronavirus safety guidance for employers, while its Wage and Hour Division addressed whether Fair Labor Standards Act implication for telework.