U.S. COVID-19: Employee Temperature Screening: What Employers Need To Consider When Deciding Whether To Implement a Screening Process
April 14, 2020
Authored by: Patrick DePoy, Mimi Moore and Christy Phanthavong
In light of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the workplace, employers are confronting important questions pertaining to the screening of employees for COVID-19 symptoms, including as it pertains to taking employees’ temperatures: May (or must) we screen employees for fevers, and if so, how should we implement such a practice?
In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we address issues relating to the decision of whether employers may (or must) implement a temperature screening protocol. In Part 2, we will provide guidance on how to do so.
Non-Discriminatory Temperature Screening Is Permitted
Taking an employee’s temperature is considered a medical exam under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and would normally be subject to strict restrictions. However, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has expressly stated in updated guidance that employers are permitted to screen employees for fevers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some state agencies are following suit; for example, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently issued guidance indicating that temperature checks are permissible and non-discriminatory under the present circumstances, so long as they are conducted on all personnel entering a facility.
Federal Guidance Supports Temperature Screening In Certain Circumstances
At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has advised all employers to consider “community level spread” of COVID-19 when determining appropriate workplace precautions, stating that workplaces in communities with minimal to moderate community spreading should, among other things, “[c]onsider regular health