The Legal Brief: What to Do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

What to Do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

As the number of reported positive cases in Texas continues to reach record highs, an increasing number of school districts are likely to face employees testing positive for Coronavirus.  You can follow this four-step process when addressing a confirmed COVID-19 case.

  1. Isolate/quarantine confirmed individuals;
  2. Address and isolate employee working near infected worker;
  3. Clean and disinfect campus(es); and
  4. Notify employees and/or community without disclosing identity of infected employee.

Isolate/Quarantine Confirmed Individuals

Address and Isolate Employee Working Near an Infected Worker

  • You should communicate with the infected employee(s) to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (within 6 ft.) for a prolonged period of time (10 minutes to 30 minutes or more) within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
  • Send home all employees who worked closely with the infected employee for 14 days under CDC guidance to ensure infection does not spread.
  • Again, get guidance from your local health authority as recommendations differ.
  • While in quarantine, the employee(s) should self-monitor for symptoms, report any symptoms, and avoid contact with higher risk individuals and seek medical attention if symptoms develop.

Clean and Disinfect Campuses

  • Follow CDC guidelines for disinfecting the workplace.2
  • Your cleaning staff or third-party sanitization contractors should clean and disinfect all areas used by the infected person, focusing on frequently touched areas.

Notify Your Employees

  • As recommended by the CDC, notify all employees who work in the locations or areas where the employee worked of the situation.
  • You will want to do so without revealing confidential medical information such as:  the name of the employee (unless you have a signed authorization).
  • Inform employees of the actions you have taken, including requiring employees who worked closely with the infected employee to self-quarantine for a period consistent with medical recommendations.3
  • Tell employees about the sanitizing and cleaning efforts.
  • Ask employees to report any symptoms and to seek medical attention if they have symptoms.
  • Employees who are exposed to indirect contact need not self-quarantine but should monitor for symptoms and notify the district if they believe they may have COVID-19.

Paid and Unpaid Leave Considerations

If a district employee is self-isolating because the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the employee may be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave (“EPSL”) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).

Employees self-isolating because of a COVID-19 diagnosis would likely also qualify for protected, unpaid leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), assuming they otherwise satisfy the usual FMLA criteria. Districts should follow existing FMLA process and provide employees experiencing COVID-19 with a medical certification form and other required notices.

1 When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 26, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/end-home-isolation.html.

See Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 7, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/cleaning-disinfecting-decision-tool.html.

3 Quarantine If You Might Be Sick, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 7, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html.

Article written by Michelle Alcala.