Does my employer have to say if a coworker has the virus?

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FILE – In this Monday, July 27, 2020 file photo, a nurse prepares a shot as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y. On Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, the top executives of nine drugmakers likely to produce the first vaccines against the new coronavirus said that they will stick to the highest ethical and scientific standards in testing and manufacturing and will make the well-being of those getting vaccinated their top priority. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

It’s a question a lot of employees are asking: does my employer have to say if a coworker has tested positive for COVID-19?

Employers are generally not required to tell workers when someone in the workplace has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that companies monitor employees for symptoms and alert those who may have been in contact with an infected person.

Some states may order businesses to follow such guidance.

Employers have the right to take employees’ temperature and ask about symptoms or if they have been exposed to or diagnosed with the virus. If an employee doesn’t respond to those questions, they can be barred from the workplace.

Businesses are required to provide a safe working environment. They also have to keep track of infections contracted on the job and report any hospitalizations or deaths related to the disease to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Some workers are unsettled by the lack of information. Amazon, for example, alerted warehouse workers when someone tested positive for the virus, but didn’t disclose a tally of how many workers tested positive. So workers began trying to keep track on their own.

There are also pending lawsuits against employers filed by workers who were exposed to or diagnosed with the coronavirus.

In general, there’s a high legal bar for finding an employer at fault for endangering employees and most claims are resolved via worker’s compensation settlements. There has also been some debate over whether Congress should grant businesses liability protections during the pandemic.

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