In the last several months, we have seen massive changes in the way we live, work, and interact with others because of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are worried not just about their health and safety; but also about losing their jobs and businesses closing down.

And while we have been in this position for months, situations can still arise that leave us unsure of how to respond. For instance, if you have an employee that tests positive for COVID-19, do you know what to do? Perhaps more crucially, do you know what you should not do?

What to do for an employee with COVID-19

If your employee tells you that they have tested positive, expect them to be under quarantine for 14 days.

Further, as this article from the Minnesota Department of Health instructs, you should determine whether the employee was in contact with any other employees or customers at work. Have those parties keep an eye out for symptoms. If they were in close contact with the sick employee for more than 15 minutes, you can ask them to stay home to avoid exposing others.

When the employee returns to work, you can conduct health checks and screens.

Additionally, you can use this as an opportunity to reiterate to other employees the importance of wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.

What not to do when your employee has COVID-19

Unfortunately, employers can make mistakes when they learn of an employee testing positive. Some of these mistakes include:

  • Requiring a worker to come in when he or she is sick and exhibiting symptoms
  • Failing to notify other workers who may have been exposed
  • Taking insufficient protocols to protect workers upon the employee’s return
  • Demanding a worker leave quarantine early without reason

These decisions can make employees feel torn between their livelihood and their health, which is incredibly stressful.

It is also critical to know that Minnesota employers cannot fire or otherwise punish someone for following public health departments’ guidance to isolate.

Owners and employers are facing unprecedented challenges in their businesses this year. Thus, it is crucial not to add more complications to operations by violating an employee’s rights or putting people in danger. Knowing what to do and what not to do can help you avoid this.

Finally, there are exceptions and nuances to every situation, often depending on the nature of the employer’s business. If you have  further questions, please reach out to attorney Anne Brown.