EEOC Guidance on COVID-19-Related Inquiries and Medical Exams

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) restricts when and how much medical information an employer may seek to obtain from an employee or job applicant. In general, inquiries about disabilities or medical exams are prohibited before an employer makes a conditional job offer to an applicant. However, those inquiries are permitted between the time the offer is made and when the applicant starts work, as long as they are required for all applicants in the same job category. 

Here’s what employers need to know about EEOC guidance on disability-related inquiries and medical exams during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Preexisting mental health conditions.  Employees with preexisting mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety may be negatively impacted by disruptions caused by COVID-19 and are entitled to reasonable accommodation at work.  

Disclosure of medical conditions.  Employers cannot ask employees who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 if they have any underlying medical conditions that could put them at extra risk for contracting the coronavirus.  However, if an employee does disclose a medical condition voluntarily that may put him or her at additional risk for contracting the coronavirus, an employer may then obtain confirmation from the employee’s physician and continue to keep all medical information confidential.  Employees with underlying medical conditions may also request special accommodation from employers.

During the pandemic, employers are permitted to:

  • Ask employees who call in sick if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Take the temperature of employees;
  • Require that employees who are ill with COVID-19 symptoms stay at home;
  • Administer a COVID-19 test to employees consistent with CDC guidance;
  • Ask employees if they have been tested for or diagnosed with COVID-19.

Employers are not permitted to do the following:

  • Require an employee returning to work to undergo COVID-19 antibody testing;
  • Ask an employee whether they have family members who have COVID-19 or associated symptoms;
  • Ask employees returning from travel where they have traveled.

Protective equipment.  If employees are required to wear protective clothing such as masks, gloves, or gowns, the EEOC considers it a best practice for employers to either provide this equipment or reimburse employees for purchasing it for work purposes. Even if there are no statewide orders in effect, some local municipalities have instituted orders requiring protective face coverings. 

Depending on workplace hazards, OSHA guidelines may require some employees to wear personal protection equipment (PPE).  In this case, employers must provide PPE at no cost to employees and provide training in its proper use.  

PPE modifications.  Unless it would cause undue hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Title VII, employers should accommodate employee requests for modified PPE.  For example, non-latex gloves should be provided for those employees with a latex allergy.  Accommodations may also need to be made for religious garb.  

Review the entire updated guidance from the EEOC regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hall Benefits Law has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 678-439-6236.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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