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Update: Coronavirus and Employer Obligations Part 2

As COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) continues to spread, the question arises of what steps an Employer can take to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in the workplace. The best way to prevent the illness in the workplace is to remind Employees to practice good hygiene such as washing your hands for at least 20 seconds (and if you can’t get to a sink use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content);  and, encourage them not to come to work if they are sick.

I know you may be thinking what can I do if an Employee shows up to work sick? Well, with the sudden outbreak of the Coronavirus you want to make sure you are keeping the workplace safe! If you notice that an Employee has come to work sick, an Employer may ask an Employee if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. An Employer can ask about these symptoms, without violating the American Disability Act (ADA), because asking about Coronavirus symptoms is not considered disability related. And even if the Coronavirus becomes severe enough to be considered a “disability”, asking about symptoms is justified as long an Employer has a reasonable objective belief that the severe form of Coronavirus symptoms poses a direct threat to the workplace. This differs from the usual scenario where an employee might tell you they are staying home because they are sick, where inquiry is not advised unless they are absent 3 consecutive days, because of the rapid spread of the Coronavirus and the direct threat to the workplace.

If an Employee has any flu-like or acute respiratory symptoms at work you can tell the Employee to go home and stay at home until these symptoms subside. An Employer can require an Employee to stay at home until the Employee is symptom free for at least 24 hours.  To that end, an Employer may require an Employee to provide a doctor’s note certifying that the Employee is in fact symptom free and is approved to return to work.  If an Employee has been out because of any concerning symptoms, an Employer should sanitize and wipe down the Employees workspace, as well as common areas in the workplace to prevent the spread of any illnesses.  Frankly, consistently wiping down common work spaces is always advisable.

Additionally, as an Employer, it is important for you to communicate to your Employees what is being done to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in the workplace, such as the steps being taken to increase hygiene in the workplace, any work from home options available, and/or remind Employees of their California Paid Sick Leave benefits.  If you have any questions surrounding steps that an Employer may and should take to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, please contact the Employer Lawyers at Chauvel & Glatt.


The material in this article, provided by Chauvel & Glatt, is designed to provide informative and current information as of the date of the post. It should not be considered, nor is it intended to constitute, legal advice or promise similar outcomes.  For information on your particular circumstances, please contact Chauvel & Glatt at 650-573-9500.


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