California Authorities Issue Guidance Regarding How to Address COVID-19 Concerns in the Workplace

Oakland, CA – In light of the global pandemic and increasing cases of COVID-19 in California, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the agency tasked with enforcement of the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), recently issued guidance regarding how employers should handle COVID-19 related workplace concerns. The DFEH’s guidance makes clear that employers may send employees home if they display symptoms of COVID-19. In the event an employee is sent home due to COVID-19-related symptoms, the DFEH notes that an employer must provide the employee with paid sick leave, PTO, or other benefits to which they may be entitled.

The DFEH also clarified that employers may ask employees whether they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, but must keep all employee health information confidential. While employers may notify employees if another employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or has reason to think they have been exposed, employers should not identify any affected employees by name. Moreover, employers may take employees’ temperatures for the limited purpose of evaluating the risk of illness posed to other employees in the workplace.

Importantly, employers may require employees to wear personal protective equipment during the pandemic, and also be prepared to provide any reasonable accommodations for disabled employees upon request.

The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation which presents California employers with significant new challenges in the workplace. McDowell Hetherington attorneys are closely monitoring the situation and are available to advise businesses on how to update their practices to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and to protect the health and safety of their employees. For more information or to discuss concerns specific to your business or geographic region, contact McDowell Hetherington attorneys Jodi Swick, Allison Fernandez, or Colleen Flaherty.