March 24, 2020 Article

Return to Work Protocol for Workers Following an Absence Due to COVID-19

This protocol outlines steps to consider when returning an employee or contractor to work after a COVID-19-related absence and applies to situations in which the person: (1) had a positive test result or (2) was out of work on a precautionary basis (with or without symptoms) but was not tested. A negative test result clears the way for return.

1. Ask for a medical note

Ask for a medical note to confirm the person does not have COVID-19 and may return to work. Recognizing that health care professionals may be too busy during or immediately after a pandemic outbreak to provide fitness-for-duty documentation, it may be necessary to accept a form, a stamp, or an e-mail to certify that an individual does not have the pandemic virus, or accept the person's word confirmed by other criteria.

2. Ask about symptoms

In the absence of a medical note and after a sufficient waiting period, it may be necessary to ask returning workers who have reported feeling ill at work, or who call out sick, questions about their symptoms to determine if they have or may have had COVID-19. Currently these symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat, and potentially loss of smell or taste. In this dialogue concerning symptoms, try to understand the reasons for the desire to return to work which may lead to an understanding the person is not ready to return to work.

3. Confirm absence of fever

Confirm the employee has remained fever free for 70 hours (3 days) without the use of fever reducing medication. While the EEOC permits taking an employee's temperature under these circumstances, care should be taken before undertaking this step. A normal temperature reading does not indicate a person is free of the virus, and the reading could be the result of fever reducing medication. There is also a risk the test was incorrectly administered or the testing device delivers an inaccurate reading.

4. Improvement of Symptoms

Confirm the worker has experienced improvement in the respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and it has been at least 7 days since the onset of symptoms.

5. Confidentiality

Remember that health-related information is confidential and should be protected.

6. Self-Quarantine

Confirm the worker has remained self-quarantined while out of work and has not been exposed to anyone who has developed symptoms or had a positive test result.

7. Social Distancing

Remind workers to continue following social distancing and personal hygiene best practices at work and at home.

8. Stay Informed

Regularly consult or sign up for alerts from public health and other government sites to receive updated information, including CDC, WHO, OSHA, EEOC and state government sites. Guidance may change as more information becomes available from these sources.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available. If you have questions on how COVID-19 could impact your company, please reach out to Peter Callaghan or a member of our Employment Law Group.

Firm Highlights

Publication

Families First Coronavirus Response Bill

The federal government has enacted the COVID-19 Coronavirus Response Act, requiring employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave and expanded FMLA protections, effective April 2. The Act provides two separate...

Publication

Preti Flaherty COVID-19 Resources

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Preti Flaherty's attorneys have maintained a constant stream of the most up-to-date information and resources for our clients, business partners, and others struggling to navigate these complex...

News

48 Preti Flaherty Attorneys Selected by Peers for Inclusion in Best Lawyers in America 2021, Including 4 “Lawyers of the Year”

Forty-eight Preti Flaherty attorneys have been named to Best Lawyers in America 2021, including four recognized on the inaugural “Ones to Watch” list for attorneys earlier in their careers and four “Lawyer of the...

Publication

Update on Families First Coronavirus Response Bill—Payroll Taxes and Tax Credits

As discussed in our recent update , the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”), which is expected to take effect on taking effect April 1, 2020 according to recent Department of Labor guidance...

Publication

Alert: COVID-19 Update for ME and NH Employers

As the landscape of the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to evolve, employers across the country are looking for guidance on how to reduce the impacts on their businesses and their employees. Yesterday, the Maine...

Publication

DOL Provides Guidance on Exemption from Paid Leave for Small Businesses

The FFCRA requires certain employers to provide paid sick leave and expanded FMLA benefits due to COVID-19 but provides that businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt if the obligation would jeopardize...

Publication

COVID-19 and 401(k) Plans—Ability to Suspend Employer Contributions

As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, many employers are looking to conserve cash in order to continue operations.  Some may wonder whether they can suspend employer contributions to 401(k) plans. Suspension of contributions...