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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)

The information provided within this FAQ does not constitute legal advice.  Employment law is complicated and appropriate legal assessment and advice can only be given based on knowledge of your specific facts and taking into account the rapidly evolving legal landscape. We strongly recommend before acting on the above you consult with an employment attorney.

 Last updated: April 2, 2020


Is testing positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus) a disability under the ADA?

The CDC has declared that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic meets the “direct threat” standard under the ADA. As a result, individuals are not protected by the nondiscrimination provisions of the ADA if they have COVID-19 (coronavirus).  However, if the CDC and state/local public health authorities revise their assessment of the spread and severity of COVID-19 (coronavirus), this could affect whether COVID-19 (coronavirus) is still considered a “direct threat,” since whether a particular outbreak rises to the level of a “direct threat” depends on the severity of the illness.

However,  the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides that private sector employers with fewer than 500 workers (and governmental entities) will have to provide employees who cannot work or telework with paid sick time off if the employee: (1) contracts the virus, (2) if told to self self quarantine by their health care providers,(3) if the employee exhibits symptoms or believes that have contracted the virus, or (4) if the employee is caring for someone falls under (1) or (2).

When may an ADA-covered employer take the body temperature of employees during a Coronavirus-like event?

Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. Because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and issued attendant precautions, employers may measure employees’ body temperature. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 (coronavirus) do not have a fever.

When employees return to work, does the ADA allow employers to require doctors’ notes certifying their fitness for duty?

Under the CDC guidelines in general business settings (i.e., non-healthcare settings where individuals in the workplace are not at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19), employees may return to work at least 24 hours after no longer having or exhibiting (a) a fever (defined by the CDC as a temperature greater than 100.4º F or 37.8º C), (b) signs of a fever [what the CDC means is unclear], and (c) any other symptoms, without the aid of fever-reducing medicines (e.g., anything containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen) or other symptom-masking medicines (e.g., cough suppressants). The CDC is not recommending that employers require a doctor’s note because of the burden this places on the health care system.



The Noble Law offers consultations and legal advice for employment issues at our Triangle and Charlotte offices, as well as video conferencing for remote clients.

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