Can I Force My Employee to Stay Home If I Think They Might Have the Coronavirus?

April 2, 2020
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

notebook with pen talking about covid-19

Over the past few months, we have seen dramatic changes that the world hasn’t seen in over a century. We are truly dealing with something that many of us have never encountered before. It’s safe to say that we’re living in uncertain times.

One place where things are especially uncertain is in the employment context. Figuring out how to stay open, make payroll, support employees – it’s all a major challenge for many Maryland businesses.

For those of you with a business that is still in operation during the coronavirus pandemic, one of the key considerations is keeping your employees safe at work. And one way to do that is to prevent employees with the coronavirus from coming into the workplace and infecting other coworkers, clients and customers.

But how do you go about doing this while not violating the law? That’s where this blog post comes in. It will help answer some of your basic questions about how you can protect your workplace. But if you have any follow up questions or require additional information, you should feel free to reach out to an experienced Maryland employment defense lawyer from the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford.

My Employee Told Me They Have the Coronavirus. Can I Tell Them to Stay Home?

Yes. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the legal requirements of anti-discrimination employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) do not override the guidelines that are set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local and state public health authorities.

The CDC recommends that employees who have COVID-19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus) or suspect they have a SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection should not go to work. The ADA does not conflict with this recommendation.

Another legal consideration is the “General Duties Clause” from Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). This requires that you keep your employees safe from death or physical harm due to exposure to “recognized hazards,” such as the coronavirus. Asking an employee who may have the coronavirus to stay home would be an example of your business fulfilling its duties under the OSH Act.

I Suspect my Employee May Have the Coronavirus. Can I Ask Them to Submit to Medical Testing?

Yes, but only to a limited extent. The ADA prohibits asking an employee to submit to a medical exam in many circumstances. However, the coronavirus changes things.

Given the CDC’s recommendations, measuring an employee’s temperature is a legal medical exam you can require of your employees. You will need to keep in mind that many people with the coronavirus will not have a fever and that any medical information obtained from the employee must remain confidential.

Can I Ask a Recovered Employee Who Wants to Return to Work to Submit a Doctor’s Note Proving They’re No Longer Sick?

Yes. The ADA allows you to ask a previously coronavirus infected employee to submit proof that they are no longer infected before returning to work. However, you should be cognizant of the fact that employees may find it difficult for overworked medical professionals to take the time to prepare a note confirming they are no longer infected or contagious.

Need More Info on Legally Keeping Your Workplace Safe from the Coronavirus? Contact a Maryland Employment Defense Lawyer.

If the above questions and issues represent only a fraction of what you need to know, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford online or call (410)514-6099.You’ll be able to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced Maryland employment defense lawyer who can answer any questions you may have and counsel you on the best way to protect your business.