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Rules of Engagement for an Employer Whose Employee has Tested Positive for COVID-19

March 21, 2020

By: Alison Smith, Partner in Kelley Kronenberg’s Fort Lauderdale office focusing her practice on Employment and Labor Law.

Alison has significant experience handling all aspects of employment and labor law including conducting training and employee investigations, engaging in collective bargaining with various unions and providing advice and counsel to private and public entities regarding existing and emerging laws such as the ADA, Florida Civil Rights Act, ADEA, FMLA, FLSA, and others.

 

Your employee has tested positive for the coronavirus.  Oh no!  Time to sound the alarm bells, right?  Not so fast.  Read on for five tips on how to handle a situation involving an employee who has tested positive:

  1. The first rule of engagement is not to panic.  Hysteria can cause an incredible disruption to your operations, and may even lead to the phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophecy (think: as a man thinketh so is he).  The right reaction is a calm, level-headed one, aimed at ensuring your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of other employees and visitors to your company.
  2. Speak to the employee (hereinafter the “Positive Employee”), and ensure him or her that you will maintain his or her medical information in the strictest confidentiality possible.  Advise the Positive Employee that he or she must self-quarantine for a period of not less than fourteen (14) days, and should visit his or her health care provider, as well as notify the Florida Department of Health.  It is possible that a longer quarantine period may be required by those medical professionals, so it is important for the employee to seek medical advice from them.  Advise the Positive Employee that he or she will need a release from a doctor to return to work.
  3. Ask the Positive Employee which areas of the company he or she has frequented, and ask for the names of employees that he or she has interacted with.
  4. Approach the employees who have been named by the Positive Employee and any others who work in that general area, and advise them that someone who has had access to their work area has tested positive, and they need to self-quarantine for not less than fourteen (14) days, and also need to visit their health care provider and notify the Florida Department of Health.  Do not tell these employees whether the person who tested positive was an employee, vendor, contractor, or merely a visitor to the company.  This is very important because identifying the Positive Employee would be a violation of that person’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
  5. With respect to the office itself, make sure all areas of the office/company where the employee worked or frequented are sanitized.  This may require a closure of the office.  Ideally, the entire company should be sanitized since it is possible the Positive Employee had access to and did in fact visit many different areas within the company.

Remember, employees take their cues from you, so calm, cool and collected should be the order of the day.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide you with general information regarding the impact of a potential or actual coronavirus pandemic. The contents of this article are not intended to provide specific legal advice.

For more information, please contact Alison Smith, asmith@kklaw.com or TEXT, 954-281-9262.