COVID-19 Coronavirus Informational Resources

NYWCA Memo in Support of COVID-19 Addition to WCB Law

NY Legislature Considering Legislation to Allow Workers’ Compensation Coverage for First Responders (Senate Bill S8041A) (3/31/2020)
Cuomo Declares Disaster Emergency for NYS

Grey and Grey, LLP Publishes COVID-19 Article
Workplace Safety Guidance Employers Need to Follow and Employees Rights
What should employees expect from their employer if a co-worker has tested positive for COVID-19
Department of Labor - OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 

Cuomo Declares Disaster Emergency for NYS

On March 7, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 202, declaring a disaster emergency in the State of New York in response to the threat posed to the health and welfare of its citizens and visitors by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak.

As an overarching precaution, in line with recommendations by the Governor and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing as a preventative tool, the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) encourages those who need to contact the Board to do so via phone, email and/or your attorney if applicable, limiting any in-person visits to Board offices. Please see the Board’s Contact Us webpage for location and service-specific contact information. Read More....


Grey and Grey, LLP Publishes COVID-19 Article

The news that cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus have appeared in New York has raised questions about the availability of benefits for those who either become infected or are subject to quarantine as the result of exposure. Grey and Grey has published an article on COVID-19 and Workers' Compensation benefits.  Read More...


Workplace Safety Guidance Employers Need to Follow and Employees Rights

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, outlining steps employers can take to help protect their workforce. OSHA has divided workplaces and work operations into four risk zones, according to the likelihood of employees’ occupational exposure during a pandemic. These risk zones are useful in determining appropriate work practices and precautions.

Very High Exposure Risk: Healthcare employees performing aerosol-generating procedures on known or suspected pandemic patients.  Healthcare or laboratory personnel collecting or handling specimens from known or suspected pandemic patients.

  • Healthcare delivery and support staff exposed to known or suspected pandemic patients.
  • Medical transport of known or suspected pandemic patients in enclosed vehicles.
  • Performing autopsies on known or suspected pandemic patients.

Medium Exposure Risk: Employees with high-frequency contact with the general population (such as schools, high population density work environments, and some high-volume retail).

Lower Exposure Risk (Caution): Employees who have minimal occupational contact with the general public and other coworkers (such as office employees).

Employees Rights to a Safe Workplace

What if a co-worker appears sick?

If any employee presents themselves at work with a fever or difficulty in breathing, this indicates that they should seek medical evaluation. While these symptoms are not always associated with influenza and the likelihood of an employee having the COVID-19 coronavirus is extremely low, employers are expected to err on the side of caution to protect co-workers. Supervisors should be trained on the importance of not overreacting to situations in the workplace potentially related to COVID-19 in order to prevent panic among the workforce.

Can an employer ask an employee to stay home or leave work if they exhibit symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus or the flu?

Employers are permitted to ask employees to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19. The CDC states that employees who exhibit symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed that advising workers to go home is permissible and not considered disability-related if the symptoms present are akin to the COVID-19 coronavirus or the flu.

Can an employer take an employee’s temperature at work to determine whether they might be infected?

Yes. The EEOC confirmed that measuring employees’ body temperatures is permissible given the current circumstances. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places restrictions on the inquiries that an employer can make into an employee’s medical status, and the EEOC considers taking an employee’s temperature to be a “medical examination” under the ADA, the federal agency recognizes the need for this action now because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions.

However, as a practical matter, an employee may be infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus without exhibiting recognized symptoms such as a fever, so temperature checks may not be the most effective method for protecting your workforce.

What precautions are needed for staff members who are taking the temperatures of employees, applicants or customers?

To protect the individual who is taking the temperature, employers must first conduct an evaluation of reasonably anticipated hazards and assess the risk to which the individual may be exposed. The safest thing to do would be to assume the testers are going to potentially be exposed to someone who is infected who may cough or sneeze during their interaction. Based on that anticipated exposure, employers must then determine what mitigation efforts can be taken to protect the employee by eliminating or minimizing the hazard, including personal protective equipment (PPE). Different types of devices can take temperature without exposure to bodily fluids. Further, the tester could have a face shield in case someone sneezes or coughs. Further information can be found at OSHA’s website, examining the guidance it provides for healthcare employees (which includes recommendations on gowns, gloves, approved N95 respirators, and eye/face protection).

What should employees expect from their employer if a co-worker has tested positive for COVID-19

Employers should send home all employees who worked closely with that employee for a 14-day period of time to ensure the infection does not spread. Before the employee departs, the employer should ask them to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (three to six feet) with them in the previous 14 days to ensure you have a full list of those who should be sent home. 

The EEOC has confirmed that employers can inquire into an employee’s symptoms, even if such questions are disability-related, if the employer has a “reasonable belief based on objective evidence that the severe form of pandemic influenza poses a direct threat.” Inquiries into an employee’s symptoms should attempt to distinguish the symptoms of COVID-19 from the common cold and the seasonal flu. This should include inquiries into whether an employee is experiencing:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Aches and pains
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath

Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.

Department of Labor - OSHA Booklet: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19