DFEH Issues Employment Information on COVID-19

Mar 26 2020 - COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Discrimination, Workplace Safety - Katie Culliton

Read about taking employees’ temperatures and other employment information from the DFEH.
Read about taking employees’ temperatures and other employment information from the DFEH.

As California is working to slow the spread of the COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has created DFEH Employment Information on COVID-19 to provide employers with answers to some burning questions.

The DFEH’s FAQs cover a range of questions, including:

  • Whether employers may send employees home if they display COVID-19 symptoms.
  • What information an employer can reveal if one of their workers tests positive for COVID-19.
  • How to handle employees requesting California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave due to COVID-19.

Below are a few questions and answers taken directly from the guidance that employers may find helpful.

During a pandemic, may an employer take employees’ temperatures to determine whether they have a fever?

Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination that may only be performed under limited circumstances. However, based on current CDC and local public health information and guidance, employers may measure employees’ body temperature for the limited purpose of evaluating the risk that employee’s presence poses to others in the workplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a pandemic, how much information may an employer request from employees who report feeling ill at work?

Employers may ask employees if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record.

What medical documentation should employees provide to support a request for reasonable accommodation to work remotely or take leave because they are disabled by COVID-19?

Generally, when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation in the form of a change in schedule, telework, or leave, employers may request reasonable medical documentation confirming the existence of the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation.

During the current pandemic, it may be impracticable for employees to obtain medical documentation of a COVID-19-related disability from their medical provider. To the extent employers require medical documentation in order to grant reasonable accommodations, DFEH recommends waiving such requirements until such time as the employee can reasonably obtain documentation.

Finally, the DFEH would like to remind employers that during a pandemic, they should rely on the latest public health recommendations from federal, state and local public health authorities. The DFEH recognizes that public health recommendations may change during a crisis and can differ based on the jurisdiction.

Katie Culliton, Editor, CalChamber

In the most recent episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank is joined by employment law experts Bianca Saad and Matthew Roberts to discuss the most common coronavirus-related questions employers and human resources professionals have been asking the CalChamber’s Labor Law Helpline this past week. Listen for free! 

Access additional COVID-19-related HRWatchdog blogs.

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