During the current times of uncertainty, many employers are asking: “What do I do if an employee has coronavirus?”
There are ways to address this question while remaining in compliance, and being sensitive to your sick employee and those around them.
Here are some things you must do.
Remember that medical information must be kept confidential as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If the employee reveals that they have symptoms of COVID-19, or has a confirmed case, the CDC requires informing the employee’s co-workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, but not naming the employee who has or might have it.
Next, it’s a good idea to direct employees to self-monitor for symptoms. Employees who feel sick should follow the CDC guidelines including staying home, separating from others, monitoring symptoms, and using telemedicine if possible.
As an employer, you should instruct the infected employee to remain at home until released by a physician or public health official. If an employee is unable to obtain a doctor’s note, follow the CDC guidelines on when they may discontinue self-isolation. The CDC provides specific requirements dependent upon whether the employee tested positive for COVID-19 and/or exhibited symptoms here.
Managing exposed employees.
According to CDC guidelines, you should notify all non-critical infrastructure workers who worked in close proximity to the infected employee that they may have been exposed and send them home for 14 days to ensure the infection does not spread.
The employer must ask the employee who they worked with within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more within 48 hours prior to the sick individual showing symptoms, or later.
Remembering the numbers 6-15-48 could be a helpful way for you to remember this sequence and follow the recommendations.
If an employee has in fact met the 6-15-48 criteria with the infected employee, then they need to be asked to:
- Stay home for 14 days after last exposure and maintain social distance from others.
- Self-monitor for symptoms.
- Check temperature once a day.
- Watch for fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
- Avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe illness (unless they live in the same home and had exposure).
- Follow CDC guidelines if symptoms persist.
After a confirmed COVID-19 case, follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting the workplace. The cleaning staff or a third-party sanitation contractor should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by an infected employee, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
How do I pay employees in self-isolation?
If you are wondering if you are required to pay an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and for how long, you must first determine if the employee is eligible for paid time off. If you are a covered employer under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the infected employee may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave. Other potentially exposed employees may also be eligible for emergency paid sick leave. Make sure you maintain appropriate documentation for employees on leave.
What are my recordkeeping obligations for compliance?
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19;
- The case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5); and
- The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria as outlined by OSHA: if it results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond “first aid,” or loss of consciousness (OSHA provides a specific and complete definition of “first aid” in 29 CFR § 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)).
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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your own plan.