Ask the BPHR Advisor: Maintaining Employees’ Privacy During the Pandemic

Ask the BPHR Advisor: Maintaining Employees’ Privacy During the Pandemic 2560 1707 Balance Point Team

BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido, SPHR, SHRM-SCP provides answers to your pressing HR questions.

Question: How do we protect the health and safety of our workers during the pandemic, while maintaining the privacy of employee medical information?

Answer: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated their Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace publication to include COVID-19. Under this new guidance, and the relevant Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and standards, employers may:

  • administer temperature taking measures before allowing employees into the workplace for the duration of the pandemic
  • ask employees whether they have COVID-19, or related symptoms
  • ask employees if they have been tested for COVID-19
  • ask employees whether they have interacted with anyone that has COVID-19, or related symptoms
  • send an employee home from work if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, or if they refuse to cooperate with temperature screening measures or refuse to answer COVID-19 symptom screening related inquiries
  • require a doctor’s note certifying fitness for duty prior to allowing an employee back into the workplace

The EEOC also provides guidance for employers hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. After extending a conditional job offer to an applicant, an employer may screen for COVID-19 symptoms, ask about their exposure to COVID-19, or request to take their temperature, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same job type. An employer may also postpone a new hire’s start date if they have COVID-19 related symptoms, or withdraw a job offer if it needs a candidate to start immediately but the individual has COVID-19 or related symptoms.

To protect employee privacy, the ADA requires an employer to keep all medical information confidential even if it is not disability related. Certain COVID-19 information, such as a COVID-19 diagnosis, is considered medical information under the ADA and therefore should be kept confidential and separate from regular personnel information. Private medical information should only be disclosed to those who need to know.

Satisfy Compliance, Focus on Strategy

The pandemic will result in the need to create new workplace policies and re-examine existing ones. Now more than ever, it’s essential to have a competent HR resource to guide you. To learn more about Balance Point’s HR consulting solution and how we can help you adapt, schedule a call with us.

DISCLAIMER: The material presented on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.

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