If an employee is out due to sickness, can you ask them if they have COVID-19 symptoms?
In most circumstances, employers shouldn’t ask about an employee’s symptoms, as that could be construed as a disability-related inquiry. Under the circumstances, however, and in line with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace, our HR Pros recommend asking specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19 and making it clear that this is the extent of the information you’re looking for.
Here’s a suggested communication: “Thank you for staying home while sick. In the interest of keeping all employees as safe as possible, we’d like to know if you are having any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Are you experiencing a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath?”
Remember that medical information must be kept confidential as required by the ADA. If the employee does reveal that they have symptoms of COVID-19, or has a confirmed case, you should see the CDC’s Interim Guidance to determine next steps. Tables 1 and 2 will help you assess risk and determine what steps, if any, should be taken.