The COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges and difficulties for the employer trying to render a healthy working atmosphere as they prepare to reopen the workplace. Employers are grappling to ensure employees’ safety. To alleviate some of the difficulties, the EEOC, on 18th March 2020, announced guidance for employers. It was regarding the testing and screening protocols for employees.
One way to prevent the infection of coronavirus is by offering employees testing. This can be either for viral testing (i.e. for current COVID-19 infection) or antibody testing (i.e. for the previous infection). But here the question is what kinds of COVID-19 testing are allowed, and what testing may employers require?
Let’s see the guidance for different COVID-19 testing for employees.
EEOC (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) proposed in its guidance that employers may conduct COVID-19 tests to identify the presence of the coronavirus if specific circumstances are met; especially:
First, harmonious with the ADA, any obligatory testing for COVID-19 needs to be work-related and for business requirements. In the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations may consider some measures to determine if workers accessing the worksite are infected with the virus or not. Because if the employee is infected, then it is a threat to the well-being of other employees. As per the EEOC guidelines, an organization may choose to conduct testing for COVID-19 for workers before they access the workplace.
Second, organizations should assure that the virus tests are reliable and accurate. The EEOC urges employers to ask for guidance from the FDA regarding what constitutes accurate and safe testing, also guidance from the CDC or other federal health administrations.
Third, as viral testing only identifies current infection, organizations still require that workers follow infection control practices like regular hand-washing, social distancing, and other steps at work to stop the transmission of the virus.
Some testing may be permitted, but given the constantly changing circumstances, there are still risks and difficulties with imposed testing. Organizations should be cautious and reach skilled employment counsel before executing any testing policies.
Till now, the EEOC has not allowed organizations to conduct compulsory antibody testing of workers under any conditions. The EEOC’s non-obligatory direction regarding viral testing anticipates the presumption that the virus testing will recognize workers who may profess a threat to others.
It is quite possible that if antibody testing is reliable, FDA-approved, and exhibited to confirm that a worker has immunization protection for a substantial time, then the EEOC can allow its usage by employers voluntarily.
Some additional factors that would resist antibody testing of workers now incorporate the intrusive process of testing and the presumption that the organization would receive the personal testing results. Furthermore, employers may not dismiss workers from jobs because they have not tendered to antibody testing or have not passed the test. It has limited efficiency.
The sophistication and science of COVID-19 testing are unfolding rapidly. Employers should be in accord with new advancements, both legal and scientific, as they prepare to test workers for the virus.
This back to work checklist gives a valuable overview of the problems employers need to acknowledge as they plan to reopen worksites.
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