Best Practices

Who Should Take the Temperature?

Best Practice: For employers with a trained nurse or medical professional on-site, the trained personnel should be taking temperatures and/or training non-medical personnel to do so.  In the event the nurse or medical professional is providing training to others, the training should be documented in writing.

For employers that do not have a trained nurse or medical professional on-site, the employer should designate one or more management-level personnel to conduct the testing.  This individual should review the directions to use the thermometer or scanning equipment to ensure proper use.  That individual should also be trained to follow up in the event of an error or a result that is inconsistent with common sense (i.e., a reading that is much too low or too high).  The training process should be documented.

What Equipment Should We Use? What PPE Should the Temperature Taker Receive?

These questions are intertwined.  Best Practice: is to use equipment that requires no direct contact between the temperature taker and the employees.  Scanners that can measure temperature remotely are ideal.  Forehead scanners also minimize the amount of contact.  If you have issues sourcing these types of thermometers, oral or other types of thermometers are a reasonable substitute.  In the latter case, make sure to clean the thermometers thoroughly between each employee, so as to not spread infection.  Read and following the directions for cleaning that accompany the thermometer.  If no directions are available, rinse the tip of the thermometer in cold water, clean it with alcohol or alcohol swabs, and then rinse it again before next use.

If you are using a temperature measurement that requires contact between the temperature taker and the employees, the taker should be equipped with adequate personal protective equipment to ensure safety for both parties.  The taker should be provided with gloves, goggles, face masks, and gowns.  If the taker is not using a “touchless” system, he or she should change gloves with each scan.

Waiting In Line and Taking Temperatures – Is this Time Compensable? What Are Some Best Practices for a Process that Respects Social Distancing?

The temperature taker is not the only one for whom best practices should be considered with a temperature-taking process; employers should be cognizant of the various states’ and municipalities’ social distancing requirements for the employees awaiting to have their temperatures checked as well.

Best Practices:

  • Consider whether additional shifts can be established to reduce the number of employees in the worksite at one time
  • Stagger shift start- and end-times greater than normal when possible (while still ensuring safe operations), to eliminate employees from congregating during the shift change-over, and from over-crowding at entrances and exits
  • Create corridors (outside, but preferably covered) where employees can enter the facility through a temperature-checking line
    • Have multiple such lines and entrances if possible to reduce crowding
    • Consider placing markings (whether in tape or otherwise) on the ground in the corridor to demarcate six (6)-foot lengths to provide for greater social distancing by employees while in line

Whether employees must be compensated for time spent having their temperature taken (and waiting in line to do so) is likely to be a contested issue in the coming months.  To the extent that any legal authority requires a temperature test before an employee is allowed to work, it is likely that time spent undertaking such a test will be compensable.  However, even if such a test is not required, both good employee relations and state law requirements may counsel in favor of paying employees for this time.

Note also that the FLSA generally prohibits pausing compensable time once an employee’s work day starts (aside from an unpaid lunch period).  Thus, if the employee’s compensable time begins with the temperature check (or waiting in line), all subsequent pre-shift activities will likely be compensable, as well.  By implementing the Best Practices outlined above regarding staggered shifts, this should also reduce the amount of time spent by employees passing thru a temperature-checking process.

What Constitutes a Fever?

The CDC states that a fever for COVID-19 purposes is any temperature at 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius or higher.  However, ensure that you also consult state and local guidelines regarding temperature levels.  Certain state and local governments and agencies have set their own, more restrictive (and some less restrictive) thresholds for what constitutes a fever.  Of course, such guidelines should dictate whether employers disqualify an employee from entering the work site.

An Employee Tested Positive. What Do We Do?

Discreetly notify the employee that he or she has a fever and do not allow him or her to enter the work environment.  The employee should begin quarantine procedures, and should not return to work for 14 days, and only if by that point, the employee has been fever-free for three (3) days and is otherwise symptom-free as well.