EEOC: Employers May Test Employees for COVID-19 Before They Enter the Workplace

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 28, 2020

An employer may test employees to see if they have the coronavirus (COVID-19) before they enter the workplace, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In an April 23 update to the coronavirus technical assistance page that it first published last month, the EEOC noted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from conducting mandatory medical tests of employees unless they are "job related and consistent with business necessity."

"Applying this standard to the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may take steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others," the EEOC said.

The EEOC also advised employers to:

  • Ensure that tests are accurate and reliable by reviewing guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health authorities, and then periodically checking for updates;
  • Consider the incidence of false-positives or false-negatives associated with a particular test;
  • Remember that accurate testing only reveals if the virus is currently present, and that a negative test does not mean the employee will not acquire the virus later; and
  • Continue to require - to the greatest extent possible - that employees observe infection control practices (such as social distancing, regular handwashing, and other measures) in the workplace to prevent transmission of COVID-19.