Remote Work Best Practices #1: OSHA Guidelines and COVID-19 Symptoms

Posted by Maria Moran on Mar 24, 2020 11:09:29 AM

osha covid

As the Illinois MEP, IMEC’s role is to be a resource for Illinois manufacturers and advocate best practices. Helping with strategy and creating systems to solve the challenges that these businesses face is our mission.

It remains our goal with today’s challenges. To that point IMEC, has created the Illinois Manufacturing Helpline and has been accepting questions 24/7 for the past week. It is our hope that some of these answers will save you precious time and assist with the challenges that you are facing.

Due to the velocity of the current environment, information is quickly outdated or no longer relevant to share en masse. We will share our questions/ answers in small doses in an attempt to add value to this read.

For the next few days , we will be sharing Legal best practices around the ever-changing workforce challenges that Illinois Manufacturers are facing.

Thank you to our partners, Greensfelder Attorneys at Law for their guidance.

What if an employee presents with symptoms of COVID-19? Can we require the employee to leave work and stay home?

Yes. If an employee presents at work with symptoms generally associated with COVID-19, e.g., a fever or difficulty in breathing, especially after being in a high-risk location, the employer may send the employee home, and require that the employee remain at home to protect the other employees in the workplace from being infected, for the recommended 14-day quarantine period.

The legitimate business reason for doing so is the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (“ADA”) direct threat defense, specifically, that the employee’s presence would be a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the employee or others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation.

While an employee may allege that he or she is being “regarded” as disabled under the ADA, or that he or she is being singled out based on his or her particular race, the direct threat defense under the ADA should protect employers that apply this policy uniformly and in a non-discriminatory manner.

Additionally, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) recommends that employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F/37.8° C or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g., cough suppressants).


The Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OSHA”) has recently set forth the following guidance advising the following in cases of suspected employee exposure to COVID-19:

  • Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
  • Take steps to limit the spread of the potentially infectious individual’s respiratory secretions, including by providing a face mask.
  • In health care and other situations where non-employees may be suspected of having the COVID-19, isolate those individuals from those with confirmed cases of the virus to prevent further transmission.
  • Restrict the number of personnel entering isolation areas, including the room of a patient with suspected/confirmed COVID-19.
  • Protect employees who must work in close contact with an actual or suspected infected person by using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices and personal protective equipment.

Have a question of your own? Submit it here.

Maria Moran

Written by Maria Moran

Topics: employee engagement, employment law, health and safety, human resources, osha, workforce, COVID-19, Remote Work Best Practices

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