As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world and the United States, it is imperative that Tennessee, and more importantly White House Area employers, are prepared to handle this issue. Below are some resources gathered to help educate employers on the coronavirus:
How Does the Coronavirus Spread?
Coronavirus typically spreads between people within six feet of each other through respiratory secretions, especially coughing and sneezing. Currently, it is unknown whether the virus can be transmitted by touching a surface with the virus on it.
What Can Employers Do Now?
It is imperative that employers maintain open communication with their employees. Employers should ensure that they have updated contact information for current employees and stay informed of the latest news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease.” The CDC recommends employers begin implementing the following steps now:
- Encourage employees with acute respiratory illnesses to stay home
- Separate sick employees
- Emphasize cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
- Advise employees about the risks prior to travel to countries that have had a significant outbreak
- Consider informing employees in the case of possible exposure in the workplace
What Actions Can Employers Take in the Case of a Pandemic?
In the case of a pandemic, employers have the right to send employees home if they show coronavirus-like symptoms at work. Also, employers may enquire if employees are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms as long as they are mindful of confidentiality obligations. Finally, if an employee returns from traveling during a pandemic, an employer may ask the employee whether they are returning from a location where that individual may have been exposed to the virus.
Can Employers Require Employees to Undergo Medical Examinations?
As stated in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” employers may not require medical examinations under the ADA unless the medical exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Whether a medical exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity depends upon the facts presented (e.g., what are the employee’s symptoms, where has the employee been, etc.) and the latest CDC guidance on coronavirus.
This is an evolving issue, and the business that prepares for it will be in a better position to deal with it, if it becomes a crisis in the United States.