Employers’ Rights Regarding Masks and COVID Testing

With the number of cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, I am sure many of you have concerns about your health, your employees’ health, and the survival of your business. It seems every day we are bombarded with new information and changes, and I know I am finding it difficult to navigate and keep up with.

One of the debates Congress is expected to pick up again shortly is whether to enact an emergency standard to bolster access to protective gear and protect employees from retaliation when airing concerns about safety or to grant employers immunity from lawsuits related to the pandemic. Lawsuits have been filed nationwide against employers for failing to provide a safe workplace, including lack of PPE, lack of training, and inadequate safety protocols.

How can you prevent this from happening in your workplace? The best thing I can recommend is to follow all of the current guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, and all authorities from local to state. Keep in mind that you will need to look at every level and adhere to the strictest. For example, the city of Milwaukee requires you to wear a mask in public; the local Village of Whitefish Bay passed a similar ordinance last week, but other local municipalities in Milwaukee County do not have mask mandates. Business owners thus need to be very familiar with their local requirements and are wise to plan how they will implement, communicate and enforce the requirements. Also, if your business operates outside of an area with a mask mandate, you can still require your employees to wear them.

Many of you are asking, can I test my employee? The answer, in most cases, is yes. The EEOC does allow for mandatory testing if the employee could pose a direct threat to others. This does not, however, include antibody testing. The EEOC also allows you to take employees’ temperatures when they report for work.

Next week I will take a deeper look into what to do if one of your employees is exposed or tests positive. 

As always, if you have questions as you navigate all of this, I am here for you. For up to the minute updates, please follow me on Instagram or like my Facebook page.

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