EMPLOYEE TEMPERATURE CHECKS AND HEALTH SCREENINGS: TIPS AND STRATEGIES

As California employers plan and prepare for re-opening, questions about conducting employee temperature checks and health screenings remain daunting. Employers find themselves asking the following:

  • Is my business required to implement employee temperature checks?
  • What kind of thermometer should be used?
  • What is the threshold for a fever?
  • Where should we conduct the checks?
  • Who should take employees’ temperatures?
  • What should I do if an employee has an elevated temperature?
  • What if we don’t have a thermometer available?
  • What other symptoms can we ask about?
  • Should records be kept?
  • How do I maintain employee confidentiality?

The following is meant to be a practical guide to implementing employee temperature checks in the California workplace and a summary of best practices.

 

Is my business required to implement employee temperature checks?

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, updated EEOC guidance authorizes employers to conduct employee temperature checks and health screenings in the workplace, subject to certain conditions. Please see DDWK Update No. 3 for a detailed discussion of the EEOC’s guidance on this topic.

Whether your business is required to implement employee temperature checks depends on state and local public health orders and applicable safe re-opening plans, which can be found on your county’s public health website. For example, San Diego County requires businesses to implement certain mandatory safety measures as part of a Safe Reopening Plan, including employee temperature checks and/or health screenings:

  • All employees must have temperature taken upon reporting to work; if 100 degrees or more, the employee should not be allowed in workplace. If a thermometer is not available, employees must be screened for symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing; or at least two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell).

 

What kind of thermometer should be used?

Touchless or no-contact digital forehead thermometers are the most practical way to conduct employee temperature checks. Depending on the size of your workforce, multiple thermometers should be purchased and made available for use.

 

What is the threshold for when an employee is considered to have a fever?

Although CDC guidance states that an elevated temperature is considered 100 °F or greater, employers must always check state and local public health orders. In the example above, San Diego county businesses should send home any employee with a temperature of 100 °F or more.

 

Where should we conduct the checks?

The purpose of employee temperature checks is to ensure that an ill employee does not enter the workplace and potentially infect other employees.

Although every workplace is different, as a general best practice guideline, employee temperature checks should be conducted prior to the employee entering the workplace. To facilitate temperature checks, it may be necessary to require employees to enter through designated entrances.

 

Who should take my employees’ temperatures?

A medical background is not necessary to take employee temperatures.  However, it is crucial that the employee(s) designated to perform the temperature checks be comfortable doing so and be properly trained in both administering the tests and protocols for maintaining employee confidentiality. At a minimum, CDC guidance recommends that, while conducting the testing, the testing administrator should use physical barriers, if possible, to minimize the tester’s exposure to close contact with other employees. Otherwise, the tester must be provided with proper Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”), including gloves, a face mask, and hand sanitizer.

Another form of temperature testing utilizes social distancing by having employees take their own temperature at home before reporting to work (and California employers would be required to provide thermometers to such employees, as needed). Upon arrival, the employee would be asked to confirm their temperature is less than 100 °F and they are not experiencing any coughing or shortness breath. The tester would also perform a visual inspection of the employee for signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks or fatigue.

 

What should I do if an employee has an elevated temperature?

First and foremost, stay calm. Do not alert other employees to the employee’s fever or you risk violating employee confidentiality. Employers can offer to perform a second temperature reading or simply notify the employee that they cannot enter the workplace due to a heightened temperature.

Wage and Hour Reminder – Depending on whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt, if they are sent home due to a heightened temperature, they may be entitled to reporting time pay or other compensation. In addition, hourly, non-exempt employees must be paid for all time associated with the temperature check, including waiting to have the temperature check administered.

 

What if we don’t have a thermometer available?

Depending on your state and/or local public health order, in the event a thermometer is not available, alternative employee health screenings may be implemented. If employee health screening forms are used in place of temperature checks, they should be conducted daily and combined with a visual screening, described above. Employee health screenings can be used to supplement employee temperature checks as an additional precaution, if desired.  But any screening questions must be narrowly tailored to COVID-19 symptoms and should be maintained in the employee’s separate, confidential medical file.

 

How do I maintain employee confidentiality?

The best strategy for maintaining employee confidentiality is training and education. All staff involved in conducting employee temperature checks should be trained and knowledgeable on the importance of non-disclosure of and proper maintenance of employees’ confidential health information.  Document all training provided. Have a supervisor on-call to address questions or unforeseen circumstances. Limit the number of employees involved in conducting temperature checks and health screenings to an absolute minimum to reduce the risk of inconsistency and the potential for a confidentiality violation.  Lastly, unless legally required or absolutely necessary, employers should consider simply noting yes/no for whether an employee has an elevated temperature, rather than recording an employee’s actual temperature.

 

Employee temperature checks and health screenings pose unique challenges for employers as well as a host of potential legal risks.  However, if properly planned and carefully implemented, they can be a useful workplace safety precaution. Please contact us for further guidance and strategies on how to lawfully implement these screening tools in your workplace.

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