By Jennifer Vorih, Esq., Ty Hyderally, Esq.
Many employers in New Jersey and elsewhere have begun to take temperatures of employees and vendors, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. ShopRite has publicized that it is taking the temperature of each worker and vendor before allowing them in the workplace. So is Walmart. Home Depot is giving employees thermometers and asking them to take their own temperatures to ensure they do not have a fever before reporting to work. This may help customers feel better about going to essential businesses, and it may help the employers keep employees who are ill from infecting other employees, vendors, and customers.
If you work for, or are considering applying to work for one of these companies, knowing that your employer is going to take your temperature every day may also reassure you. But it may alarm you. Can your employer really take your temperature daily as a condition of employment?
Yes. Because of the pandemic, employers can take temperatures of employees in order to allow them to work. But employers need to keep in mind that this is a medical examination, and that it gives them medical information about their employees, and they need to treat this as the confidential information it is.
In addition, employers can ask employees whether they have any symptoms of COVID-19 before allowing them to work. Again, employers must safeguard this confidential medical information.
Employers can also make a log of the results of daily temperature testing, but they need to keep that information confidential. Also, all of the health information employers collect on their employees must be kept separate from the personnel files of those employees.
Some employers may even choose to administer tests for COVID-19 before allowing employees to work or return to work after an absence. As this is much more invasive than taking temperatures, employers need to be very cognizant of confidentiality issues, and they should also do what they can to ensure that they are using accurate tests.
However, if your employer learns that you actually have COVID-19, they can share that information with a public health agency, to allow them to do contact tracing. And if you are employed through an employment agency and the agency learns that you have COVID-19, the agency can inform the company for which you are currently working.
The EEOC has a great deal of information available on this topic, at : https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm.
A final note: your employer may require you to where personal protective equipment, such as a mask and gloves, while you are at work. They can also require you to wash your hands regularly and maintain social distancing.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, and may not reasonably be relied upon as such. If you face a legal issue, you should consult a qualified attorney for independent legal advice with regard to your particular set of facts. This blog may constitute attorney advertising. This blog is not intended to communicate with anyone in a state or other jurisdiction where such a blog may fail to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state of jurisdiction.