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Federal Guidance on 3 Common Concerns for Bringing Employees Back On-Site

Many organizations that have adapted to telework in recent months are evaluating whether to bring employees back into the workplace. If your company is one of them, you will have many considerations specific to your organization, workforce and location.

On top of your specific factors, federal guidance on paid leave, medical testing and accommodations is applicable to companies nationwide.

Here are three recent items to be aware of.

Paid leave

Earlier this year, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed by Congress and signed into law. It created new leave-related provisions for employees affected by the coronavirus, applicable to private organizations employing fewer than 500 people, and certain public sector employers. These include:

  • for full-time employees, up to two weeks of emergency paid sick leave
  • for part-time employees, paid sick leave equivalent to their average hours worked over a two-week period
  • per Family and Medical Leave Act expansion, up to 10 weeks of job-protected leave at two-thirds of normal pay

Crucially, these provisions remain in effect. For employees who think they may qualify for leave under the FFCRA, the U.S. Department of Labor recently released a tool to help determine eligibility.

This easy-to-use online resource walks employees through a series of options to help them make a quick determination, and is easily shared with employees to assist in finding the answers they may seek.

Medical testing

At this point, many leaders may wonder about legal restrictions on testing employees for COVID-19 before they return.

According to the latest guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), testing employees to determine if they have COVID-19 – in other words, diagnostic testing – is permissible. Temperature checks also fall under this allowable category.

However, requiring antibody testing (which requires a blood sample) is not permissible under current employment law.

Workplace temperature testing

Reasonable accommodations

According to the EEOC, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) neither requires nor prohibits stay-at-home or telework accommodations if requested by people 65 or older, who are at higher risk in relation to COVID-19. The EEOC encourages employers to be flexible. However, note employers may not involuntarily exclude older workers from returning to the office, even for benevolent reasons.

Telework accommodation for pregnant women – considered another higher-risk group by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – may be required under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). While pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, pregnancy-related conditions may qualify as disabilities under the ADA. Thus, requests for accommodations by pregnant employees must be considered under ADA rules to avoid potential liability.

As always, this situation remains fluid, so requirements affecting businesses are subject to change. Keep in mind that state and local governments may also impose their own requirements regarding paid leave. Please continue to follow the Paycom blog for updates relevant to you.