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U.S. COVID-19: Workplace Temperature Screening: How To Develop and Implement A Screening Protocol

The notion that U.S. employers would engage in broad-scale temperature screening of employees would have once been essentially unthinkable.  But the realities of COVID-19 are changing the workplace, as least for the time-being.  With the encouragement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and some state and local governments, and in light of the blessing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), more employers are now considering the implementation of daily temperature screening[1] before employees enter the workplace.

In Part 1 of our two-part series on temperature screening, we addressed the question of whether employers may (or must) implement a temperature screening protocol.  Here, in Part 2, we address the question of how to implement such a protocol, i.e. what procedures for temperature screening in the workplace should employers implement? Below are a number of issues for employers to consider:

  • Decide who will be screened. Some employers are screening only critical infrastructure workers who were or may have been exposed to a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.  Other employers are screening all employees, and often are also screening any contract workers and visitors who enter the workplace, unless doing so would be virtually impossible (e.g., a grocery store screening all customers).  Although deciding who will be screened is essentially a business decision, at all times, employers must ensure that employees are selected for screening on a nondiscriminatory basis.
  • Decide who will do the screening. The options for who will do the screening range
  • U.S. COVID-19: Employee Temperature Screening: What Employers Need To Consider When Deciding Whether To Implement a Screening Process

    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

    U.S. Employers Weigh EEOC Guidance in Responding to Coronavirus

    As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread, U.S. employers considering taking preventative measures to reduce transmission should bear in mind employment laws that may restrict certain precautions, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

    Basic precautionary measures like promoting washing hands, encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick, and other good hygiene practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) are unlikely to raise concerns under the ADA.  Indeed, recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) makes clear that the CDC’s guidelines and suggestions for employers regarding COVID-19 do not violate the ADA.

    However, the ADA does prohibit covered employers from excluding individuals with disabilities from the workplace for health or safety reasons unless they pose a “direct threat” (i.e., a significant risk to the health or safety of others that can’t be eliminated by reasonable accommodation).

    Nonetheless, it is likely permissible for employers to ask employees who travel to or from an area affected by COVID-19 to work from home or, if remote work is not possible, take leave for 14 days (the incubation period for COVID-19) because the employees pose a direct threat under the ADA.   Whether the leave period must be paid or can be unpaid depends mostly on the employee’s classification under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as “exempt” or “non-exempt,” the particular state laws of the state in which the employee works, and the employer’s own sick leave policies.

    Request for Accommodation Will Not Support Retaliation Claim Under Missouri Human Rights Act, SCOMO Holds

    Under Missouri law, a request for accommodation cannot serve as the basis for a retaliation claim.  Last month, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued a unanimous opinion in Lin v. Ellis, No. SC97641, 2020 WL 203145, at *5, — S.W.3d —- (Mo. banc Jan. 14, 2020) (per curiam), holding that “a mere request for an accommodation does not fall within the plain language of either the opposition or participation clause of” the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.070.1(2).

    The Lin case arose out of an employee’s request from her employer to accommodate her request to avoid tasks that aggravated her chronic back pain after being diagnosed with two herniated discs.  Without requesting a doctor’s note, the employer provided the requested accommodation.  Subsequently, the employee’s back pain worsened, and she asked to be excused from performing certain tasks that required her to work at a bench with her back bent for extended periods of time.  The employer accommodated this request too and assigned her work that did not exacerbate her herniated discs.

    After an internal complaint was filed against the employee, the employer asked human resources to initiate a process with a view toward terminating the employee.  Simultaneously, the employer was informed that funding for the employee’s work under a grant was set to expire, thereby eliminating funding for the employee’s position.  After the employer informed the employee that the funding for her work was set to expire, and after discussing other work the employee could perform in light

    Sixth Circuit Holds Nonmember of Credit Union Lacks Standing to Bring ADA Claim Based on Allegedly Inaccessible Website

    In Brintley v. Aeroquip Credit Union et al., Case Nos. 18-2326/2328 (August 8, 2019), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order dismissing an Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim alleging that the defendant credit union’s website was not accessible to the blind.  The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision allowing the case to proceed, finding that Brintley had failed to allege either that she was eligible for membership in the credit union or had a present intent to make herself eligible, and therefore lacked standing.  In so doing, the Court joined two other appellate courts that have similarly held that an individual who is ineligible for membership in a credit union fails to allege an injury in fact despite alleging visits to an inaccessible website.

    Read the full article here.

    Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has extensive experience defending companies against website accessibility claims and regularly offers webinars on the topic to assist our clients in assessing compliance with the ADA. If you would like to schedule a similar webinar or presentation, or for more information on website accessibility or defending against such claims, please contact any of the attorneys listed.

    Website Accessibility Alert: Court Addresses Mootness Argument in Website Accessibility Case

    As businesses continue to face lawsuits and demand letters alleging that their websites are inaccessible to blind and deaf patrons in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), courts across the country continue to weigh in on the issue.  On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a decision in Diaz v. The Kroger Co. – holding that the Court lacked both subject matter and personal jurisdiction over the case because the complaint had been rendered moot by modifications defendant made to the website and because the defendant did not sell goods or services in New York.  Diaz v. The Kroger Co., Case No. 18-cv-07953, Opinion and Order [Dkt. No. 35].

    In Diaz, the plaintiff, a visually-impaired and legally blind individual who resides in the Bronx, New York, alleged that the website of defendant Kroger, a supermarket chain with its principal place of business in Cincinnati, Ohio, denied equal access to blind customers.  Kroger moved to dismiss the complaint on two grounds:  (1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it remedied the barriers to access to its website, and (2) for lack of personal jurisdiction because it does not conduct business in New York.  The Court granted Kroger’s motion to dismiss on both grounds.

    In granting Kroger’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court noted that the facts of the case were different from other cases where courts found, “on the facts of those cases, that the defendants

    Ninth Circuit Issues Important Decision in Domino’s Website Accessibility Action

    January 23, 2019

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    As businesses continue to face lawsuits and demand letters alleging that their websites are inaccessible to blind and deaf patrons in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), courts across the country continue to weigh in on the issue.

    Click here to read the recent article posted on our Retail Law blog.

    Supreme Court Rejects Disabled Employee’s Bid to Revive His $2.6 Million ADA Jury Verdict: Why You Should Still Regularly Update Job Descriptions and Supporting Documents

    January 3, 2018

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    On October 16, 2017, the Supreme Court rejected an employee’s petition for review of a decision in Stevens v Rite Aid Corporation.[1]  Stevens sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for alleged discriminatory discharge claiming trypanophobia or “fear of needles” as a disability.  Rite Aid discharged Stevens, a pharmacist of 32 years (with Rite Aid and its predecessors), after he refused to comply with Rite Aid’s requirement that pharmacists administer immunization injections to its customers.  The Second Circuit held that administering injections was an essential function of the pharmacist position at the time of his termination, and therefore, concluded that Stevens was not a “qualified individual” with a disability.

    At trial, Rite Aid personnel testified that the company made a business decision to start requiring pharmacists to perform immunizations.  While courts are required to consider a variety of factors under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) regulations, many courts give substantial or “considerable” deference to an employer’s business judgment and written job descriptions.  Following this deferential standard, the Second Circuit reversed entry of judgment in Stevens’ favor and ordered the district court to vacate the jury’s $2.6 million award and enter judgment for Rite Aid as a matter of law on his claim of disability discrimination.

    The Second Circuit is in line with other circuits, including the Fifth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits, which have concluded that considerable or substantial deference to an employer’s business judgment about essential functions and its written job descriptions is required.   However, some circuit

    ADA Does Not Require Employers to Provide Multi-Month Leave Beyond Expiration of FMLA Leave – Seventh Circuit

    This week the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision helpful to employers grappling with whether they must extend an employee’s time off following the expiration of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  See Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., No. 15-3754, 2017 WL 4160849 (7th Cir., Sept. 20, 2017).

    In Severson, the court found that “[a] multimonth leave of absence is beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.”  Plaintiff, Severson, had a physically demanding job working for a fabricator of retail display fixtures.  Severson took twelve weeks of FMLA leave due to serious back pain.  During his leave, he scheduled back surgery (to occur on the last day of his FMLA leave), and requested an additional three months of leave.  Defendant, Heartland, denied Severson’s request to continue his medical leave beyond the FMLA entitlement, terminated his employment, and invited him to reapply when he was medically cleared to work.  Instead, Severson sued, alleging disability discrimination.

    In affirming summary judgment in favor of the employer, the 7th Circuit noted that “[t]he ADA is an antidiscrimination statute, not a medical-leave entitlement.”  Following its earlier decision in Byrne v. Avon Prods., 328 F.3d 379 (7th Cir. 2003), the court also stated that “an employee who needs long-term medical leave cannot work and thus is not a ‘qualified individual’ under the ADA.”  In other words, “an extended leave of absence does not give a disabled individual the means

    Are Head Lice a Disability? Navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    August 25, 2017

    Categories

    What if you had an employee who kept coming to work with head lice?  What should you do?  Employment lawyers get all kinds of questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act—and some of these can give you a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.  Here is a short tutorial on the basics of navigating this important law, seen through the lens of that bane of parents everywhere: the louse.

    Under the ADA, a disability is (1) “a physical or mental impairment” that (2) “substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.”  Under this test, the claimant must first prove that he or she has a physical or mental impairment, which is defined as “any physiological disorder or condition.”  But what qualifies as a physiological disorder or condition?   According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “physiological” means relating to “the organic processes and phenomena of an organism or any of its parts.”  Given this breadth, it is difficult to think of any “disorder” or “condition” that affects the human body that would not qualify.  However some courts, such as the Sixth Circuit in E.E.O.C. v. Watkins Motor Lines, Inc., have focused more on the “disorder” element of the EEOC’s definition.  In Watkins, the court held that a man’s obesity did not qualify as an ADA impairment because a “physical characteristic must relate to a physiological disorder in order to qualify as an ADA impairment.”  According to the Watkins court, merely having a physical characteristic beyond the range of normal

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