With COVID-19 cases spiking throughout the country, employers must remain vigilant to their workers’ health.  If an employee shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, an employer should do the following:

Send Employee Home

Employees who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive at work should be separated from others and sent home.  Be as considerate and sympathetic as possible when sending your employee home.  Advise the employee to contact their doctor and follow CDC guidelines.

Provide your employee with HR contact information to discuss applicable leave options (i.e. FFCRA).

Employees who develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive while outside of work should stay home and notify their supervisor.

Interview Employee

Talk to your employee for contact tracing.  Interview safely by calling or video conferencing.  Find out all co-workers, clients, customers, vendors, or guests your sick employee had close contact over the last 14 days. “Close contact” means being within six feet of the sick employee for a prolonged period (10-30 minutes).

Ask about which areas at work the sick employee was physically present for a prolonged period.  Also determine what machinery, equipment, or workspace the sick employee used.  If the employee only stayed in certain limited areas, then your business may not need to fully shut down.

Keep Health Information Confidential

Employers must not disclose the identity of the sick employee diagnosed with or presumed to have COVID-19.  Keep all employee health or medical information confidential.  Employers should keep any such confidential documentation in a private health folder, separate from the employee’s personnel file.  Access to such private health information should be limited to critical human resource staff.

Notify Close Contacts

Once you have determined who was exposed to the sick employee, act quickly to notify (via phone or video call).  Notify all “close contacts” that someone has tested positive and they have been identified as having been in extended contact with the person.  Do not reveal any names.

Ask exposed employees to go home.  If possible, set up employees for remote work.  For exposed employees who have symptoms, they should self-isolate, contact their doctor, and follow CDC recommended steps.  For exposed employees who have no symptoms, they should remain at home, monitor symptoms, and practice physical distancing for 14 days.

If a critical infrastructure worker was potentially exposed, there are different protocols.  Please see the CDC.

Notify All Employees

Give a general notice to all remaining employees that a person at work tested positive for COVID-19.  Do not reveal any names.  Stress the notification is cautionary and there is no belief there was close contact with the sick employee.  Provide information on steps being taken to keep them and the workplace safe.  Ask all remaining employees to self-monitor for symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, nausea, diarrhea, or loss of taste or smell.  If they develop symptoms, they should stay home and notify their supervisor.

Cleaning Protocol

Determine which areas the sick employee has been for a prolonged period.  Immediately close off these areas from other workers.  Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation.  Wait for 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting the areas.  If 24 hours is not practicable, then for as long as possible.  Waiting will minimize the potential exposure for other workers from droplets in the air.

Follow up

Touch base and keep in contact with your sick or exposed employees.  This can be done via phone, video, or email.  Follow up on their health condition.  Also provide support, as necessary.

Returning to Work

Employers cannot “require sick employees to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to return to work.”  See CDC guidelines.

However, an employer can require their sick employee to satisfy the following before returning to work:

  1. The employee has had no fever for at least 24 hours (1 full day of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers); AND
  2. Respiratory symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved); AND
  3. At least 5 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.

Though individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 can now leave isolation after 5 days if they start to feel better, in the event that the individual cannot take a rapid test on day 5 or did not have a negative test, it is recommended by the state that they isolate themselves for at least 10 days.

If you need employment assistance, please contact Hackler Flynn & Associates.

Coronavirus Response Plan

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Coronavirus Response Plan

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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