Testing is one of the most important layers of protection that employers and employees have against COVID-19. The US Equal Opportunity Commission [EEOC] has now placed a restriction on COVID testing for employers limiting to only where there is defined “business necessity.”
EEOC updated a number of Q&As on July 12, 2022, including A.6. EEOC’s assessment at the outset of the pandemic was that the ADA standard for conducting medical examinations was, at that time, always met for employers to conduct worksite COVID-19 viral screening testing. With the revision of A.6, below, on July 12, 2022, EEOC makes clear that going forward employers will need to assess whether current pandemic circumstances and individual workplace circumstances justify viral screening testing of employees to prevent workplace transmission of COVID-19.
A.6. offers employers possible factors to consider in making this assessment, including community transmission levels and types of contacts between employees and others in the workplace. This change is not meant to suggest that such testing is or is not warranted; rather, the revised Q&A acknowledges that evolving pandemic circumstances will require an individualized assessment by employers to determine whether such testing is warranted consistent with the requirements of the ADA.
A.6. Under the ADA, may an employer, as a mandatory screening measure, administer a COVID-19 viral test (a test to detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus) when evaluating an employee’s initial or continued presence in the workplace? (Updated 7/12/22)
Yes, if the employer can show it is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
A COVID-19 viral test is a medical examination within the meaning of the ADA. Therefore, if an employer implements screening protocols that include COVID-19 viral testing, the ADA requires that any mandatory medical test of employees be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” Employer use of a COVID-19 viral test to screen employees who are or will be in the workplace will meet the “business necessity” standard when it is consistent with guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and/or state/local public health authorities that is current at the time of testing. Be aware that CDC and other public health authorities periodically update and revise their recommendations about COVID-19 testing, and FDA may revise its guidance or emergency use authorizations, based on new information and changing conditions.
A positive viral test result means that the test detected SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at the time of testing, and that the individual most likely has a current infection and may be able to transmit the virus to others. A negative test result means the test did not detect SARS-CoV-2 at the time of testing. However, a negative test does not mean the employee does not have any virus, or will not later get the virus. It means only that the virus causing SARS-CoV-2 was not detected by the test.
If an employer seeks to implement screening testing for employees such testing must meet the “business necessity” standard based on relevant facts. Possible considerations in making the “business necessity” assessment may include the level of community transmission, the vaccination status of employees, the accuracy and speed of processing for different types of COVID-19 viral tests, the degree to which breakthrough infections are possible for employees who are “up to date” on vaccinations, the ease of transmissibility of the current variant(s), the possible severity of illness from the current variant, what types of contacts employees may have with others in the workplace or elsewhere that they are required to work (e.g., working with medically vulnerable individuals), and the potential impact on operations if an employee enters the workplace with COVID-19. In making these assessments, employers should check the latest CDC guidance (and any other relevant sources) to determine whether screening testing is appropriate for these employees.
A.7. Under the ADA, may an employer require antibody testing before permitting employees to re-enter the workplace? (Updated 7/12/22)
No. An antibody test, as a medical examination under the ADA, must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. As of July 2022, CDC guidance explains that antibody testing may not show whether an employee has a current infection, nor establish that an employee is immune to infection; as a result, it should not be used to determine whether an employee may enter the workplace. Based on this CDC guidance, at this time such testing does not meet the ADA’s “business necessity” standard for medical examinations or inquiries for employees. Therefore, requiring antibody testing before allowing employees to re-enter the workplace is not allowed under the ADA. An antibody test is different from a test to determine if someone has evidence of infection with SARS-CoV-2 or has COVID-19 (i.e., a viral test). The EEOC addresses COVID-19 viral screening tests in A.6.
Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L., The EEOC Restricts COVID Testing by Employers, Workers' Compensation Blog, July 14, 2022), https://workers-compensation.blogspot.com/2022/07/the-eeoc-restricts-covid-testing-by.html
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Blog: Workers ' Compensation
LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group
Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters