What Your Employer Can and Cannot Do When You Return to Work in the Coronavirus Pandemic

What Your Employer Can and Cannot Do When You Return to Work in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many businesses have been shut down for months. But as states and cities open back up, thousands of employees are returning to work. As these workers return, they wonder about their personal safety and exposure to the coronavirus. There are a number of things an employer can and cannot do when it comes to safety in the workplace.

Things an Employer Can Do

Employers can take some important steps to protect the safety of employees and customers. These steps include:

  • Take an employee’s temperature—while this would normally be considered a medical examination and a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicates that temperatures can be taken to protect the safety of your coworkers and others. Of course, this right to take your temperature will only be available until the EEOC says otherwise.
  • Force an employee to come back to work—while an employer can’t really force you to come back to work because you have the right to leave your job, the employer, even if you were previously working from home, can make you return to the office. If you are immunocompromised or have a certain health condition, you could make an argument under the ADA that you should be able to work from home.
  • Make employees wear a face mask—an employer can require that you wear any type of personal protective equipment that it deems necessary. Your employer may make reasonable accommodations if you have a medical condition.
  • Send an employee home if they have coronavirus symptoms—according to EEOC and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, an employee that presents with symptoms of an illness that is an imminent danger to others can be sent home.
  • Require employees to take a coronavirus test before returning to work—employers can require testing. However, they cannot require antibody testing.

Things an Employer Can’t Do

There are some things an employer is prohibited from doing when you return to work.

  • Ask if an employee has an underlying condition—an employer can’t ask if an employee has an underlying condition that may make them more prone to complications from the coronavirus. The ADA protects employees from unfair treatment due to their health conditions.
  • Ask about an employee’s illness if they call in sick—an employer can ask if the employee has coronavirus symptoms, but cannot generally ask the reason why an employee has called in sick.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you have questions about your rights when you return to work during the pandemic, you should contact an experienced attorney. Gregg Goldfarb has been helping protect civil rights for over 20 years.  Contact us online or call us at 305-374-7000 to schedule a free consultation.

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