Advice for Employers Who Want to Take Employees’ Temperatures to Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Generally, taking an employee’s temperature is considered a medical exam and is permitted only under certain, limited circumstances.  However, the government is relaxing the requirements relating to temperature taking if the purpose is to help protect against the spread of COVID-19.  If you choose to do this, remember it is important to protect employees’ privacy and not to single out employees because of their race, national origin, or age or the race, national origin, or age of people with whom they associate (such as a spouse or roommate).

  • Be clear you are doing this only to determine if the employee may have COVID-19 (as opposed to determining whether the employee has some other medical impairment or disability).
  • Use an infrared digital thermometer; it is less invasive and reduces the possibility of passing on the virus.
  • Take the reading where others cannot see the process or results.
  • Don’t let others know the results of the employee’s temperature reading or whether an employee was sent home immediately after a reading, which indicates that the employee had a temperature.
  • Do not keep a record of the temperature readings.
  • Review the CDC website regularly (cdc.gov) to make sure there have not been any changes in their recommendations about temperature readings.
  • Remind employees who are taking temperature readings that a fever (a measured temperature of 100.4 F or greater) may be a symptom of COVID-19, but don’t assume the person is infected and they must treat an employee who has a fever professionally.
  • You may ask employees to inform you if they test positive, but you cannot require them to tell you whether they tested and/or the results of any tests.
  • Remember – not having a temperature is not determinative, so continue to take other recommended precautions.

Useful guidance may be found in U.S. OSHA’s “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf ) and, for certain specified employers, Cal OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DEODC/OHB/Pages/ATDStd.aspx).