Managers should send home employees that come in with symptoms of a respiratory illness and separate them from other coworkers, public health experts have said. But bosses can’t conduct “medical examinations” to confirm someone is ill, including taking their temperature, according to a recent note law firm Fox Rothschild sent to clients.
Employees could be entitled to their paychecks even if they are sent home before doing any work.
Businesses must also protect the privacy of workers suspected or confirmed of having the coronavirus when informing the rest of the staff that they were potentially exposed. Companies should contact their local health department to create a plan before divulging the information to their staff, the law firm recommended.
Hiring and firing
In addition, businesses can’t fire employees for having the coronavirus, and they can’t ask job applicants about their medical conditions. This includes inquiring if they were previously infected or if they had traveled to any of the areas affected by the virus, such as China, Iran or Italy.
“The fact that there is great concern surrounding the coronavirus, or that other employees may not want to work with a particular person out of fear of contracting the coronavirus, is of no consequence,” Fox Rothschild wrote.
It’s a tricky move, the firm wrote. But it’s generally allowed unless the employee has a disability that requires a mask or works directly with someone who’s infected.
Dealing with customers
Patrons might also be curious about whether workers serving them are affected by the virus. The information can be disclosed as long as the business doesn’t give away an employees’ identity, according to the law firm.
In any case, it would “likely be near impossible to establish that a guest contracted coronavirus from a retail operation that has guests, employees and other visitors to the workplace coming in and out all day,” said lawyer Carolyn D. Richmond, the chair of Fox Rothschild’s hospitality practice.
How businesses are adapting
Meanwhile, Burger King said it was emphasizing normal hygiene practices. Chick-fil-A declined to comment, while McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks and other food retailers didn’t reply to inquiries.