If an employee reports testing positive for COVID-19, it’s important to remember that the safety and well-being of all employees is paramount, but the privacy of the reporting individual must also be preserved under federal law.
As a general rule, an employer should not disclose the identity of an employee diagnosed with (or suspected of having) coronavirus. In an employer-employee context, the employer should make every effort to protect the medical confidentiality of the individual while still providing sufficient information to the workplace in order to implement appropriate health and safety action steps. In almost every case, this can be done without sharing the name of the person who was infected.
To the extent that there may be a smaller population of people who may have been at a higher risk of close contact with the affected person (e.g., shared cubicle block, officemate, in meetings with the person in recent days, etc.), employers should reach out separately to that population to indicate that their exposure profile may have been more extensive. Higher risk employees should be advised to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure, remain vigilant for the onset of any symptoms, and see their healthcare provider should symptoms occur.
After hearing such news, affected colleagues will likely inquire as to the name of the affected individual. However, in both company-wide and more limited communications, employers should not disclose the identity of the infected person (absent written consent from the affected employee). This includes revealing the name and health information of the individual explicitly by name or implicitly through verbal hints or clues, absent the written consent of the affected employee.
If the employee reported his or her positive COVID-19 test to an HR manager, HIPPA regulations allow that manager to report the individual to only those superiors who need to know. The company should have a policy requiring the employee to leave the premises, self-quarantine for at least 14 days, and seek medical assistance if conditions worsen. Extra cleaning of the work area that the individual may have touched in recent days should be done in a way that does not identify the person – for instance, cleaning and disinfecting the entire service area or sales area.
This linked article contains information that you may find helpful in regard to employer communication when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. With COVID-19 cases continuing to ramp up in our region, it is important to protect the safety, health, and privacy of all employees. These guidelines are offered as general information only. Please consult with your business counsel regarding circumstances particular to your dealership.