If you’re confused about what your employer can and can’t require of you during this pandemic, you’re not alone. Every other day it seems like some new rules and requirements and expectations seem to intrude on our rights. In many cases, getting a straight answer feels impossible.
Finding out if you have to submit for a COVID-19 test each time you go to work is a perfect example of how many people don’t know what they can and can’t fight. Some lawyers freely admit that they’re not sure how legal this topic is. For a long time, it was common knowledge that employers couldn’t legally require employees to undergo any medical examination that didn’t directly impact their work. COVID-19 has changed things.
Based on what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated, it’s likely that you do have to adhere to your employer’s wishes and be screened for COVID-19. The catch is that when your employer requires that you get the test, they have to do so in a way that stays in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Your employer isn’t allowed to simply declare that you take a COVID-19 test. There are some strict rules that they have to follow. These rules include:
- Adhering to both federal and California confidentiality laws.
- Stick to reliable tests.
- Understand the possibility of false/positive and false/negative tests and have a plan of action in place.
But what happens if the test comes back positive? You’ll have to socially distance which means you can no longer go to work. If working from home isn’t an option, how are you supposed to pay your bills for the two or more weeks you aren’t working?
The good news is that the government has taken the steps needed to make sure you don’t lose your home during this period. If you have to take sick leave because you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) stipulates that provided you meet certain criteria, your employer must pay you, provided you’ve tested positive. In many cases, your employer only has to pay for 2 weeks of sick leave. If you have worked for your current employer for at least 30 days and have a genuine inability to work due to caring for a child during the pandemic, you’re entitled to a 10-week leave of absence at 2/3s of your regular salary. Some employers who employ less than 50 employees are exempt from the required sick pay for COVID-19 victims.
If you start feeling unwell or were exposed to COVID-19 it’s in your best interest to talk to your employer and try to find a solution that keeps everyone safe.