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

What Owners Need to Know About Cannabis in the Workplace

Preti Flaherty attorney Kristin Collins spoke with Fast Forward Maine on the impact of legal recreational and adult use cannabis in Maine, including how will it effect hiring processes, health insurance, and government contracts...

Publication

Health Coverage Incentives for Unvaccinated Employees

Employers wrestling with COVID-19 vaccination-reluctant employees have a lot on their plates. New federal mandates may require affirmative action but even without these new rules, the real problem is how to persuade your workers...

Publication

Six Take-Aways from EEOC’s Updated COVID-19 Guidance

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") published guidance in December 2020 advising how EEO laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination...

Publication

Understanding the New COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers

Many Maine healthcare facilities were already in the process of evaluating, drafting, and implementing mandatory vaccine policies when the Maine Department of Heath and Human Services issued an Emergency Routine Technical Rule on the...

Publication

Court Upholds Maine Employers' Discretion Not to Pay for Unused Vacation Time

In January, the First Circuit issued an opinion upholding a lower court's decision that rejected a former employee's attempt to get paid for unused vacation time following his resignation from employment.  See White v...

News

46 Preti Flaherty Attorneys Selected by Peers for Inclusion in Best Lawyers in America 2022, Including 3 “Lawyers of the Year”

Forty-six Preti Flaherty attorneys have been named to Best Lawyers in America 2022, including four “Ones to Watch” and three “Lawyer of the Year” recipients. Inclusion in Best Lawyers in America is considered a...

News

Fifteen Preti Flaherty Attorneys Selected as Chambers USA Leaders in Their Field

Fifteen Preti Flaherty attorneys and five practice groups have been selected for inclusion in the 2021 Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Lawyers for Business , the highly regarded directory of leading attorneys and...

Publication

The Latest from OSHA on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 at Work

On the tails of updated guidance from other agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") released new pandemic-related guidance last month. This guidance was issued on June 10, 2021...

Publication

New COBRA Premium Subsidies Take Effect April 1, 2021

The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) makes temporary but significant changes to Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) coverage rules. They provide: A 100% subsidy for COBRA premiums...

Publication

New Maine Law Limits Employers’ Ability to Request Applicant Criminal History Information

Last month Governor Mills signed into law LD 1167, “An Act Relating to Fair Chance in Employment.” Maine joins a growing number of states in adopting a “ban-the-box” law that restricts employers’ ability to...