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As we await state guidance, answers to questions on health screening and other reopening protocols
June 29, 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make many aspects of the future uncertain, school leaders across the state are thinking about the fall. Assuming schools reopen, what kinds of health screening and health monitoring should be used for both students and employees? While school districts and BOCES await specific guidance from the governor and State Education Department (SED), there is a body of law that sets some basic parameters. As new guidance is frequently being issued by both state and federal authorities, you should consult with your school attorney before implementing any plans.
May schools routinely take the temperature of employees and/or ask employees if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19?
Routine temperature checks and symptom screening appear permissible while COVID-19 is a threat in your community. Typically, employers are restricted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from asking employees about medical conditions or taking temperatures unless the employer has objective evidence of a medical condition that may impair the employee’s performance of essential functions or poses a direct threat to the employee or others. However, guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in May stated that the community spread of COVID-19 provides the objective evidence an employer needs to consider the potential for infection to be a direct threat to others.
Regular screening should be conducted consistently, for all like employees, on a non-discriminatory basis. Districts should determine the criteria for exclusion or further assessment of an employee prior to conducting screenings. Any screening practices, including reliance on a list of relevant symptoms, should align with current medical guidance from public health authorities. Districts should continually monitor public health guidance regarding the spread of COVID-19 and take the recommended precautionary measures to address what would be considered a “direct threat.”