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Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act


As we anticipate turning the corner soon and begin to reopen America it is understandable that there are going to be many new or unknown circumstances occurring in the workplace.  Below are some of the most frequently asked questions as it relates to hiring, re-hiring and overall pandemic preparedness in the workplace, however, we have included a link for the full publication along with another useful publication posted by the EEOC. Please remember that guidance is continuously changing as the pandemic evolves so all employers should keep up with the most current information issued by visiting the CDC website frequently. 

HIRING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

 If an employer is hiring, may it screen applicants for symptoms of COVID-19?


Yes. An employer may screen job applicants for symptoms of COVID-19 after making a conditional job offer, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same type of job. This ADA rule allowing post- offer (but not pre-offer) medical inquiries and exams applies to all applicants, whether or not the applicant has a disability. 


May an employer take an applicant’s temperature as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical exam?


Yes.  Any medical exams are permitted after an employer has made a conditional offer of employment.  However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.


May an employer delay the start date of an applicant who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it?


Yes.  According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.


CDC has issued guidance applicable to all workplaces generally, but also has issued more specific guidance for particular types of workplaces (e.g. health care employees). Guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.  Therefore, employers should continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.   To repeat:  the ADA does not interfere with employers following recommendations of the CDC or public health authorities, and employers should feel free to do so.


May an employer withdraw a job offer when it needs the applicant to start immediately but the individual has COVID-19 or symptoms of it?


Based on current CDC guidance, this individual cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer may withdraw the job offer.

AFTER A PANDEMIC

May an ADA-covered employer require employees who have been away from the workplace during a pandemic to provide a doctor’s note certifying fitness to return to work?


Yes. Such inquiries are permitted under the ADA either because they would not be disability-related or, if the pandemic influenza were truly severe, they would be justified under the ADA standards for disability-related inquiries of employees.

 
As a practical matter, however, doctors and other health care professionals may be too busy during and immediately after a pandemic outbreak to provide fitness-for-duty documentation. Therefore, new approaches may be necessary, such as reliance on local clinics to provide a form, a stamp, or an e-mail to certify that an individual does not have the pandemic virus.


Employers should remember that guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Therefore, employers should continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.


To view the guidance in full please visit:  https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pandemic-preparedness-workplace-and-americans-disabilities-act


Additional useful publication issued by the EEOC:  https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws

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