The EEOC published a recorded webinar on March 27. The EEOC uses a Q and A format to address 22 common questions from employers covering a broad range of topics including among other things, taking employees temperatures, appropriate and inappropriate disclosure of information related to an employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis, and managing employee accommodation requests including requests from employees in the high risk categories identified by the CDC. The EEOC emphasized that none of the laws the EEOC enforces, including the ADA, interferes with or prevents employers from following the guidance of the CDC or other public health authorities.
As the employer community attempts to navigate the current pandemic crisis and EEO law, one of the most common questions from employers is whether the ADA permits employers to notify public health authorities if they learn an employee has COVID-19. The EEOC explained yes, the ADA permits employers to notify public health authorities because COVID-19 poses a direct threat to both those with the disease and those with whom they come into contact. The EEOC, however, did not clarify whether an employer is permitted to identify the individual by name. The EEOC also addressed the information that can be shared with the workforce under these circumstances:
- Employers may be concerned that telling employees that “someone at this location” or “someone on the 4th Floor” has COVID-19 may not provide sufficient information to allow people to know if they should take further steps to protect themselves or others. Therefore, can employers tell the workforce the name of the employee with COVID-19?
No. The ADA does not permit such a broad disclosure of the medical condition of a specific employee. More importantly, this broad disclosure is not recommended by the CDC. The CDC advises employers to maintain confidentiality of people with COVID-19.
The EEOC’s webinar supplements the EEOC’s existing publications: “What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19” and “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act“.
Please visit our COVID-19 resource webpage often to stay abreast of developments or contact your JL attorney directly with any questions. For more information regarding COVID-19 issues employers face, tune in to our Daily Briefing webinars using this link to register.