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Are Temperature Screenings the New Workplace Norm?

On March 18, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance that gave employers the green light to take employees’ temperatures before entering the workplace.

Brian Nugent, a partner at Akerman law firm, recently presented a G&A Partners webinar titled “Tips for Reopening and Remaining Funded,” discussing at length how and when employers should check employees’ temperatures.

Nugent recommends as a precautionary measure that employers consider instituting a new policy requiring employees to stop and have their temperatures checked before they are allowed to enter the workplace.

Watch the “Temperature Screening 101” video excerpt below or read the FAQs that follow to learn more.

When can an employer take an employees’ temperature?

EEOC guidance permits employers to subject employees to temperature checks before arriving at work, but only where all employees are tested, and only as long as COVID-19 remains widespread in the community, as assessed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or state or local health authorities.

Should employers keep records of employee temperatures, and if so, how should they maintain them?

Records related to employees’ temperatures can be kept, but they must be treated as a confidential medical record and therefore kept separate from an employee’s personnel file.  It often is unnecessary to retain information on employees who “passed” the temperature check, but if the employer does retain records, they must comply with all ADA regulations.

Who should administer employee temperature checks?

It’s best to either retain a medical professional to administer the temperature checks or select an employee who has been trained on ADA requirements and employee privacy. The employer should also ensure the employee checking temperatures is wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and following all protection measures applicable to individuals at very high risk.

Can taking an employee’s temperature be a “next-step measure” of symptoms monitoring?

EEOC guidance permits an employer to send an employee home if the employee displays any symptom associated with COVID-19, including a cough, sore throat, or chills. In this instance it’s better to err on the side of caution and not bother taking the employee’s temperature, but rather send them home instead.

What are the liability risks to employers when taking employees’ temperatures?

Depending on the type of test, there are typically data privacy concerns. Where employers maintain records of temperatures can also prove to be a liability under state or local biometric laws. Additionally, employers in certain jurisdictions may be required to compensate nonexempt employees for the time they are waiting to be screened.

Nugent covered a lot of ground in this hourlong webinar. If you missed it, watch it here so you have a better sense of what to expect when you reopen your business.

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