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As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increase each day, public safety employees are understandably concerned about exposure to the virus at work. Employers also want to ensure that employees who contract the virus are isolated or quarantined in order to minimize the risk of exposing co-workers to the virus. Prompt identification of employees with symptoms of COVID-19 often leads to assertions that employees showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested; both to document a work-related illness and to identify employees who should be removed from the workplace to protect other employees from exposure.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has advised that employers may ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, measure an employee’s body temperature, and send employees home if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. But what about requiring employees to be tested for COVID-19? Generally speaking, employers can only require existing employees to undergo medical examinations when there are objective indications an employee is unfit to perform the essential functions of their jobs or would pose a significant health and safety risk to co-workers and the public. Currently, the Center for Disease Control does not recommend testing anyone for COVID-19 unless there is reason to suspect the employee has come in contact with an infected individual. If the employer does believe an employee has been exposed to COVID-19 or an employee otherwise showing symptoms of the virus, an employer could require the employee to be tested for COVID-19 and the employer would be responsible for the cost of the test.
The result of a COVID-19 test is protected health information covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and similar California laws. Those laws generally prohibit disclosure of a person’s protected health information. However, HIPAA permits disclosure of otherwise confidential health information under certain circumstances, including the national health risk created by the spread of COVID-19. Additional exceptions apply to first responders.
A. Organizational culture helps identify your company’s internal and external identitsy. Ensure your employees understand your company’s core values. By understanding how you expect them to conduct business, manage workflow, interact as a team, will help transform employees into advocates for your organization and makes them feel more engaged and committed.