Temperature Checks Give Employers Fever
As most employers know, the EEOC has confirmed employers may implement processes to take employee's temperatures before allowing them to enter the workplace during the pandemic. State and local governments in over twenty states have issued guidelines recommending—and sometimes requiring—these temperature screenings. Here are some things Arizona employers need to keep in mind.
Arizona is one of the states that requires employers screen their employees before allowing them to work. Specifically, the law mandates employers must screen employees for symptoms "prior to the start of their shift. Wellness/symptom checks, including temperature checks for all personnel, when possible, as they arrive on premises or before opening." Arizona's requirements are flexible and do not require employers to actually take the temperature. Self-reporting is allowed.
Legal Considerations for Onsite Screenings
Here are some key legal considerations for those employers implementing an onsite temperature screening program, which they plan to administer.
- The temperature checks must be consistent. All employees should be treated the same regardless of position, exemption, classification, and every other aspect.
- Educate your workforce. Employers should educate their workforce on the symptoms of COVID-19 based on the most-to-date information from the CDC and respective state's department of health.
- Train the person who will be taking temperatures. The individual must understand the device, the need for confidentiality, and relevant laws and protocols on using and disposing of personal protective equipment.
- Communicate your policies and provide all proper notices. These include:
- Notice to employers regarding the screening program;
- Post a symptom screening poster;
- A COVID-19 symptom questionnaire;
- Authorization for release of temperature screening results.
- Safety is paramount. When conducting the screenings, employers should practice social distancing, utilize no-contact thermometers, and ensure appropriate disinfecting materials.
- Keep it private. Employers must maintain their employee's privacy and should not disclose the identity of any employee who tested positive for COVID-19.
- Retention. Employers should be weary of the applicable retention programs. Remember, OSHA requires employers, under certain circumstances, to maintain employee medical records for thirty years. It is not clear cut whether or not this applies to onsite temperature screenings; however, in an abundance of caution, employers should keep meticulous records.
As mentioned, Arizona employers can ask their workforce to self-report and conduct their own screenings prior to starting work. Such programs are attractive because they greatly limit the need for training an authorized health screener, and significantly limit any potential retention times.
An employer choosing this method, however, must train its employees as to the symptoms of COVID-19, and communicate its policies on reporting to work and other such rules. Such policies should be detailed, explain what constitutes a fever, and be evenly applied to all employees.
A Harsh but Important Reminder
Employers should remember, regardless of what health-screening program they implement—there is no silver bullet to eradicate the spread of COVID-19. What we know about the virus is ever-changing. We do know current medical information suggests individuals who are asymptomatic may nevertheless transmit the virus to others. Accordingly, taking temperatures does not eliminate the need to take additional steps to avoid the spread of the virus, which include, but are not limited to wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, promoting remote work when possible; maintaining adequate distances between employees who are in the workplace; frequent hand hygiene including hand washing for at least 20 seconds; and, frequent cleaning and disinfecting of common areas in and around the workplace.
About the Author: Alejandro Pérez is a partner at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He assists clients with employment law issues including hiring, termination, employee discipline, paid sick time, leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, and whistle-blower liability. Alejandro also conducts workplace training on a variety of topics, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and workplace inclusivity. He is committed to assist employers navigate through employment issues that arise from the COVID pandemic.