Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Please note that we are working to disseminate facts and will not speculate during this global-wide challenge.
Providing Team Members with factual information from health officials and assuring Team Members that their health and safety is paramount can help to prepare and educate Team Members without causing panic
Can I tell Team Members if a co-worker has tested positive for the coronavirus or other communicable disease?– +
No. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) privacy rules restrict employers from sharing personal health information of an Team Member. Employers should inform Team Members that possible exposure has occurred in the workplace without disclosing any identifying information about the individual who tested positive.
Employers can ask an Team Member how he or she is feeling in general but should not inquire about a specific illness as that could rise to the level of a disability related inquiry under the ADA.
What should we do if an Team Member discloses that they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19?– +
According to CDC guidance, individuals who have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 should self-quarantine. Employers can require an Team Member who has been exposed to the virus to stay at home.
Team Member Leave
Yes, Team Members who show signs of respiratory illness can be asked to leave the workplace and stay at home until they are symptom free.
Under the Occupation Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Team Members are only entitled to refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger. See Workers’ Right to Refuse Dangerous Work.
If an employer applies the practice consistently, clearance from a health care provider to return to work can be required. However, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests employers remove such requirements during a health crisis as access to health care providers may be limited.
Should Team Members returning from business or personal travel be required to stay away of the office for 14 days?– +
Team Members returning from countries that have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice from the CDC should stay home for a period of 14 days after returning to the United States. See Travelers from Countries with Widespread Sustained (Ongoing) Transmission Arriving in the United States.
Most employers provide Team Members with paid time off for illness. Nonexempt Team Members who do not have paid leave available are not required to be paid for such absences, unless there is a collective bargaining agreement indicating otherwise.
An exempt Team Member must be paid for partial-day absences but may have his or her salary reduced for full-day absences due to sickness if the employer offers a paid sick leave benefit and the Team Member has exhausted that leave or is not yet eligible for the leave.
The coronavirus would likely qualify as a “serious health condition” under the FMLA, allowing an Team Member to take FMLA protected leave. See How do I know if an Team Member’s medical absence qualifies for FMLA leave?
While not required, telecommuting may be a practical measure to reduce exposure of the virus in some work environments. Team Members with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications may request telework as a reasonable accommodation to reduce their chances of infection during a pandemic.
Employer Policies Practices
Many employers are cancelling all but the most essential business travel.
This won’t prevent transmission and is not advisable. An individual without an elevated temperature could still be ill. Due to concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Team Member relations issues, employers are better off requiring Team Members with visible signs of respiratory illness to stay home.
OHSA guidelines stress that PPE’s should only be used for back office (NOT front office) while performing their job as using PPE’s for any other reason will deplete the availability of possibly limited supplies which could result in practice closures due to not having the necessary tools to perform their job safely.