CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Can I refuse to have my temperature taken before work?

The coronavirus has raised many questions about workplace rules and one of them is whether an employer can send you home if you refuse to have your temperature taken.

Coronavirus: Can I refuse to have my temperature taken before work?
EVARISTO SA AFP

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says employers can take their workers’ temperatures in an effort to avoid the spreading of coronavirus.

There are laws against giving an employee an exam as stated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless the exam is work related. And more specifically, the law states that an employer can carry out the exam and the law states "a disability-related inquiry or medical examination of an employee is job-related and consistent with business necessity when an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that:

  • An employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or
  • An employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.

Another reason why a screening is allowed is if the employer has reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that the employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.

“If there’s a reasonable basis for employers to be doing temperature checks, which obviously there is right now, then that is absolutely legal,” David Barron, labor and employment attorney with Cozen O’Connor, tells CNBC Make It.

There are issues, however, with screening for temperature as it might not be as accurate at the situation merits. There is a lot of information too on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website when it comes to community-based guidelines.

"Generally, measuring an employee's body temperature is a medical examination," the EEOC stated. “Employers may measure employees' body temperature. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever," the centre for control and prevention of diseases stated. The problem is that some people with the virus may not have a fever as asymptomatic people can both carry the illness and spread it.

"If it saves one life, it's worth it," Jeff Nowak, an attorney with Littler in Chicago told SHRM.

Employers should also be careful when it comes to other medical screening and make sure it falls under the guildelines as outlined in the ADA.