Since the start of the pandemic, big corporations and small businesses alike have been doing everything they can to keep their employees, customers, and clients as safe as possible from COVID-19. This included implementing safety measures to screen people as soon as they walked through the doors.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its suggestions on how businesses should handle screening of their employees for COVID-19. It now states that screening workers is an optional strategy an employer can use.
While many places are choosing to encourage individuals to self-screen before coming to work, several businesses are still choosing to check their employee’s temperatures when they arrive onsite.
Health screenings have caused many conversations on whether they violate an employee’s rights in the American Disability Act. We put together this guide to help empower you on the ins and outs of health screenings and temperature checks for your Workplace.
Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act
In March 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released updated guidelines, the Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act, regarding the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on employers’ obligations to:
- Not to discriminate against employees
- Provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees under the Americans with Disabilities and the Rehabilitation Act
Can an employer take their employees’ temperatures during a pandemic to determine whether they have a fever?
Measuring an employee’s temperature is considered a “medical examination.” However, since the CDC deemed that the coronavirus could spread rapidly throughout the community, according to CDC’s guidelines, employers can measure employees’ body temperatures as a measure to keep their employees and customers safe. An employee with a fever or other symptoms would be subject to ADA confidentiality requirements along with their medical information.
What to know about employee temperature checks
Temperatures are not conclusive
As we learn more and more about the virus, it’s essential to remember two things:
- Individuals may not have a fever and still test positive for COVID-19
- Not everyone with a higher than average temperature may have the virus
Therefore, an employee’s temperature should only be one factor considered when assessing risk.
If fever is not a strong sign of COVID-19, why should I consider implementing temperature screening?
Body temperature can be objectively screened and verified, unlike many other COVID symptoms. And while it may not conclusively identify asymptomatic cases, it still can catch positive cases and help prevent a possible outbreak in your business.
Many companies are also implementing temperature screenings to decrease anxiety in their staff, as it shows their employer is taking significant, proactive steps to keep them safe while they work.
Use the least invasive approach
Experts recommend against oral thermometers and suggest utilizing little to no touch methods when taking temperatures. This means employers should use a disposable or no-contact thermometer to prevent the spread of the virus.
Who performs the temperature screenings?
If you don’t have an occupational nurse on staff, you should assign one person to do the screening at the start of each shift.
That person should:
- wear protective clothing
- be screened in advance to make sure they are not sick
- ensure all employees maintain social distancing while waiting for temperature screenings
What protective clothing/equipment/products should the employee have?
Whoever will be performing temperature screenings should be supplied with items that will protect them should they be exposed. This includes masks, gloves, eyewear, a gown, and hand sanitizer.
Factoring in wages and hours
An employee should be considered “on the clock” while waiting for and during their temperature screening. Those sent home due to COVID symptoms should also be paid for the time out of work.
If an employee refuses to be tested, an option is to send them home without pay. However, this is at the discretion of the company.
Concerns about confidentiality
Companies should be mindful of their employee’s confidentiality at all times. The best ways to ease your staff’s concern with privacy is to:
- Advise the person who performs the screenings not to share anyone’s temperature reading
- Keep records of screening results in confidential medical files (not in employees’ personnel records)
- Not share results of screenings with co-workers
Taking your employee’s temperature is permitted and an appropriate tool to guard against a contagious virus; it should be done thoroughly, privately, and with an understanding that it is just one step to consider when assessing risk.
Here at SkinStitch, we understand the importance of providing high-quality yet affordable temperature scanners, hand sanitizers, and hand sanitizing dispensers that will help keep businesses as safe as possible. Reach out to us for more information on using our products as part of your company’s fight against COVID-19.