As an employer during a pandemic situation, you are able to ask if the staff member is exhibiting those symptoms reflective of the current pandemic, in this case, COVID-19. Does the staff member have complaints of shortness of breath, a dry cough, fever or sore throat? Have they been tested? This information is to remain confidential and maintained in the staff members’ medical record as it can be crucial to preventing the spread of infection through your facility.
The ADA recommends that the documentation pertaining to an employee’s health/medical status be maintained separate from the personnel file; thereby adding an additional layer of confidentiality.
Know that some staff may be calling in as a direct result of fear or panic. Are you equipped to handle that? Do you have a contract with home health agencies to staff your building in the time of crisis? Are you contracting with an agency for staffing and what does that look like? How are they being orientated to the building and your residents; especially when working with those living with Dementia.
Hiring or freeze? To hire or not to hire….things to think about when hiring new staff during a pandemic.
- As an employer, you are able to screen the prospective employee after a job offer is made; as long as it is the same screening process for other jobs that require the same or equal tasks. This is usually something that is completed during a pre-employment physical where the prospective employee agrees to the testing/screening process.
- You cannot withdraw a job offer to a person that is considered “high risk” for contracting the virus; however, the CDC does permit a delay of the start date if the applicant is symptomatic of the COVID-19 virus
Does the employer have the right to screen employees entering the workplace during a pandemic?
Absolutely! Keeping in mind that a fever is one of the signs/symptoms of COVID-19 but each person will react differently to the virus and may not present with a fever. It is important to remain current with these symptoms as they are changing rapidly based on the continuing research efforts. Establishing communication with the CDC, local health departments and state licensing bodies is always a good start as they can guide you through the newly identified symptoms; such as loss of smell or taste. Ensure that the documentation maintained from these checks should be properly stored maintaining confidentiality; so if a log is utilized, ensure that there is a cover page over the log and it is not left unattended.
When an employee returns to work post-illness; whether it be the pandemic virus or other illness, the employer can and should consider requiring some sort of release back to work from a licensed healthcare professional. This assists in ensuring that the staff member is participating in appropriate restrictions such as light-duty/no transfers etc.