Hiring Employees During and After the COVID -19 Pandemic in Wisconsin

As employers return to more normal business operations, they may find that they need to hire additional employees.

Most employers know there are certain questions that they can and cannot ask of prospective employees as it relates to their health, but has that changed with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? To some degree, yes.

The following are basic rules of thumb for hiring new employees during COVID-19.

Can an employer screen a job applicant for COVID-19?

The Department of Labor has signaled greater latitude in making reasonable COVID-19 related inquiries as part of the application process. An employer may screen job applicants for symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to the virus, but only after making a conditional job offer. Also, an employer may screen for COVID-19 as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same type of job.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rule allows post-offer (but not pre-offer) medical inquiries and exams if they are job related -- in this case, in the form of a test for COVID-19.

What if a new employee tests positive or is symptomatic of COVID-19?

If an offer is given to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or the person is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, under current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, the individual cannot safely enter the workplace.

If the person was hired for a position that is not currently stay-at-home, and if the position is highly time sensitive, the employer may withdraw the job offer.

Can an employer simply push back a start date for a new hire with COVID-19?

According to current CDC guidance, an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with COVID-19, should not be in the workplace.

If an employer can delay the start date of an employee who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they should do so rather than rescinding the offer.

The CDC has issued guidance applicable to all workplaces, including specific guidance for particular types of workplaces, such as healthcare.

Guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Therefore, employers should continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety, regardless of how long individuals have been employed by the organization. 

Employment lawyers in Wisconsin to assist you with your hiring and employment practices

Contact the lawyers at Murphy Desmond to advise you on your employment matters as businesses begin to open. We have offices in Madison, Janesville, Appleton, and Dodgeville, Wisconsin, to assist with all your personal and business legal needs. Employers may contact our firm at 608.257.7181.  

Published June 4, 2020

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