Employers Can Ask About Virus-Related Loss of Smell, EEOC Says

April 9, 2020, 10:24 PM

Employers can ask if workers have experienced symptoms beyond a fever or cough related to Covid-19 when deciding whether they pose a threat to the workplace, the EEOC said in updated guidance.

Businesses can ask if a worker has experienced a loss of smell or nausea, among other symptoms, because public health officials and other authorities have determined those symptoms to be associated with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday.

The federal workplace civil rights agency has been routinely updating its guidance for businesses trying to keep up with rapidly changing information. The agency added this answer, as well as others, to guidance that’s been updated at least two times before Thursday, and will “continue to monitor developments and provide assistance to the public as needed,” the EEOC said in a statement.

The agency also clarified that employers can’t withdraw job offers from pregnant women or those over 65 because they’re at a higher risk of Covid-19, and that employers may store Covid-19-related medical information, like recorded body temperatures, in existing medical files.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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