- Employers can test on-site employees for COVID-19 as a condition of entering the workplace, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- According to guidance updated April 23, a mandatory COVID-19 test may be administered if it is "job related and consistent with business necessity." Given that a person with the virus "will pose a direct threat to the health of others," an employer can choose to test employees entering the premises.
- EEOC says "employers should ensure that tests are accurate and reliable." Additionally, it recommends that employers "still require — to the greatest extent possible — that employees observe infection control practices (such as social distancing, regular handwashing, and other measures)" in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work.
The new guidance is consistent with previous statements by EEOC that employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are allowed to take employees' temperatures as they enter the workplace, even though this is considered a medical exam. Workers who refuse to undergo required disease-prevention measures may be barred from entering the workplace in order to protect the safety of other employees.
The agency has reiterated that state and federal anti-bias laws continue to apply during the pandemic. Employees and applicants cannot be singled out for special testing or other measures on the basis of race, religion, sex or other protected characteristics. Compliance with these laws is not inconsistent with guidelines offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local health authorities.
Employers need not test all workers entering the workplace for COVID-19 or related symptoms (such as a fever). However, if only certain employees are selected for testing, the employer must have a reasonable, objective basis for doing so — such as testing employees who are exhibiting persistent coughs or other symptoms associated with the disease.