The COVID-19 Virus is a serious public health threat that can cause significant loss of business and revenue if not addressed promptly. Many employers believe that regular testing of workers is a cost-effective way to mitigate these losses and improve their bottom line.
The latest guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that COVID-19 viral testing is job related and consistent with business necessity if it is considered an employee medical examination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers must also be sure to follow the ADA’s other requirements for conducting employee medical examinations, such as ensuring that the employee is qualified for the job, that the test is reasonable and objective, that there is no discrimination or other unfair treatment, and that the testing is conducted in a confidential manner.
In addition, a testing program can help reduce the burden of COVID-19 north stream on the economy by reducing worksite closures and allowing for return-to-work following infection. However, testing must be part of a multifaceted response to the disease and may include other measures, such as contact tracing, isolation, social distancing, masking, and cleaning/disinfection protocols.
Identifying High-Risk Worksite Clusters
For example, shared housing facilities, detention and correctional facilities, schools, daycares, youth programs, and other facilities that provide services to children should be considered highly prioritized for follow-up. These facilities can be particularly susceptible to large clusters, because they often have multiple workers who are at increased risk of COVID-19 infections and other complications.
These workers might not be able to maintain a recommended six feet of physical distancing from their coworkers or could face other challenges in reducing their exposure. Consider offering them alternative options, such as remote working or other flexible arrangements that can minimize their potential exposure to COVID-19.
Determine if Worksite Testing is Necessary
In some cases, a worksite assessment will not be necessary because there are no laboratory confirmed cases. This is especially true in a community with low case rates and limited access to testing, or when there are other factors that could influence the strength of a cluster, such as barriers to accessing testing or delayed test results. Nevertheless, when a case is identified, a worksite assessment is still important because of the potential impact of a positive case on operations.
EEOC Guidance on Worksite Testing for the COVID-19 Virus
The EEOC has issued guidance on worksite testing for the COVID-19 virus, and this guidance is updated periodically as pandemic conditions evolve. In particular, the EEOC notes that current transmission levels are a consideration in determining whether a testing program is job related and consistent with business necessity. This includes a number of factors, including the transmissibility of current COVID-19 variants, the accuracy and speed of processing different types of COVID-19 viral tests, employees’ vaccination status, working conditions, and the potential impact of positive cases on operations.
Regardless of the specific circumstances, it is essential for health departments to quickly identify and prioritize high-risk worksite clusters in order to conduct more comprehensive outreach and assistance. Health departments can identify potential clusters by investigating case reports, contact tracing, worker complaints, or employer reports to the health department.