In an article for the Washington Business Journal, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Lymari Cromwell explained how employers can legally respond when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. As Lymari detailed, many employers think the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects employee health information, but that pertains specifically to health providers. For employers, the Americans with Disabilities Act, protects the privacy of a workers health records and information, so employers may ask employees if they’ve tested positive for the coronavirus, but must keep that information confidential in accordance with the ADA.
When it comes to taking an employee’s temperature, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to get thermometer readings given the potential direct threat to others who could be exposed. Lymari advised to “treat this like a real medical test,” and go to a private room to take someone’s temperature and keep results completely confidential in that employee’s medical file.
A best practice for employers is to create a mandatory work-from-home policy for those who do not need to be in the office. If a small group must report to the office, Lymari suggested closing off break rooms to discourage people from congregating and spacing out cubicles to other workplaces more than usual.
The full article, “Working in the Age of the Coronavirus,” was published in the April 3 print edition of the Washington Business Journal. Subscribers may access the April 3 digital edition here. The article was republished in the Nashville Business Journal under the headline “Has the Coronavirus Hit Your Staff? What Employers Need to Know” and is available online.