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As employees return to workplaces that have been shut down for weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are bringing their questions about their personal safety with them.
According to a recent poll by Eagle Hill Consulting, 54 percent of respondents said they are worried about workplace exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. While most of those surveyed (71 percent) were confident that their employer could bring them back safely, employees still have many questions about what they will be required to do to deter the spread of the coronavirus in their workplace.
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Christine Dinan, senior staff attorney at A Better Balance, a nonprofit that helps people navigate legal issues in the workplace, says the volume of COVID-related requests their organization has received has tripled in recent weeks.
"Now that we're in reopening mode, we're getting a lot of questions from folks who are still unable to work for one or more reasons, or concerned about going back to work, given certain health-related reasons,” Dinan says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have created guidelines for workplaces to follow for the important questions that people have during the coronavirus outbreak. While the answers may vary based on your personal circumstances and the conditions in your workplace, here are responses to key questions on what your employer can do during the pandemic.
Can my company take my temperature when I arrive?
Yes. Usually, taking your temperature would be considered a medical examination, which would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But because the coronavirus can pose a direct threat to your coworkers and others, employers may take your temperature, according to EEOC guidance.
"Employers will be able to take temperatures, however, only for as long as the EEOC, working with the Centers for Disease Control, deems these otherwise prohibited medical inquiries are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Jay Rosenlieb, an employment lawyer in Bakersfield, California.
Though thermal scanners are one option companies have used to check their employees for symptoms of the coronavirus, workplace safety experts note that this type of screening alone may not be sufficient.
"We know there is significant risk of infection from individuals who are presymptomatic or asymptomatic — no fevers,” says Deborah Berkowitz of the National Employment Law Project. “So this is just one small measure — but not one that is really protective for workers."