Should Employers Notify Staff When Workers Test Positive for COVID-19?

With more COVID-19 cases being reported every day, one might think that employers would be required to let employees know when their employees test positive. This is not necessarily the case since there are no universal guidelines in place. While employers must let employees know if they were exposed to a colleague who tested positive, both sides may be at a loss when it comes to getting the right information.

What Does My Company Need to Do?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), employers should be alert for employees exhibiting symptoms who may be infected. If this is the case, the employer should let anyone who may have been in contact with that person know. Although states may order companies to adhere to this, it is not being overseen and managed. Employers have the right to take their employees’ temperatures and ask if they have been exposed, are feeling symptoms, or were previously diagnosed with COVID-19. Workers who refuse to answer may be sent home in some cases.

However, there are no rules in place mandating that employers report infections to the CDC or local health organizations. If an employer wishes to do so, they cannot name the employee, due to health privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

What About OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to provide their employees with a safe working environment. This includes letting OSHA know of any infections, hospitalizations, and deaths at workplaces. However, employers are not following this rule due to fear of company liability.Thousands of cases have already been filed that pertain to pandemic-related issues. In September, Healthline stated that there were 4,883 state and federal lawsuits underway. Yet, they did not say how many were about unsafe working environments.

Employers are responsible for keeping tabs on their employees and should know where and who they are working with. If someone tests positive, all employees who have been in close contact with that person should be quarantined. They should self-monitor by checking their temperatures two times a day, be vigilant about any new symptoms, and keep in touch with any workers who they know tested positive.

Do Employees Have Any Recourse?

There may be more testing options available for companies online soon, and this is a worthwhile investment. In the meantime, employees may feel anxious about the ambiguity and lack of information in their workplaces. This is especially true, given the fact that many areas are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. A recent Wall Street Journal article stated that the current situation is a balancing act, as employers try to juggle workplace safety and privacy concerns.

In Tennessee, a Volkswagen plant is using a company app that shares updates on any COVID-19 cases. Employees can see how many of their co-workers have tested positive, as well as information about ongoing contact-tracing investigations. The plant’s Chief Executive said that being transparent with this information lessens the chances of rumors spreading. Many employers who have at least 10 workers are also sharing COVID-19 information with OSHA. Employers are entitled to ask for copies of these logs, and the information must be provided by the end of the following business day.

South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Put Employee Safety First

If you have concerns about your workplace’s safety during these uncertain times, contact the South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Complete our online form or call us at 856-235-7075 for a free consultation today. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we help clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Cherry Hill.