Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show coronavirus cases are on the rise again as the highly contagious and immune-evasive BA.5 subvariant of omicron remains dominant in the United States.
Meanwhile, many VERIFY readers have sent in new questions about the virus and testing. Troy emailed the team to ask whether a person is obligated by law to notify their employer if they test positive for COVID-19.
Are employees legally required to report positive COVID-19 tests?
Day Pitney, LLP, a law firm
No, employees aren’t legally required to report positive COVID-19 tests.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency tasked with ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, “recommends that workers tell their supervisors if they have tested positive for COVID-19 so that employers can take steps to protect other workers, but they are not required to do so,” a spokesperson said in an email.
In March 2020, Day Pitney, LLP, a law firm based on the East Coast, also wrote that employers should still “ask or strongly encourage” employees to report a positive COVID-19 test result, but workers “cannot be forced to disclose test results” under current law.
In workplaces outside of healthcare, OSHA doesn’t require that employers notify people if one of their coworkers gets COVID-19, either, according to an FAQs page on its website. However, employers still need to take steps to protect other workers from exposure to the virus, including removing or isolating a worker who has COVID-19 through allowing remote work, cleaning and disinfecting, notifying other people to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, or implementing a program to screen for symptoms.
Under CDC guidance, which is not a requirement but instead a suggested course of action, those who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate themselves in their home for five full days after their positive test, regardless of their vaccination status. A person can end isolation after those five days if they are fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms are improving. People in this group should also wear a well-fitting mask in public for 10 days, the CDC says.
The CDC suggests people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines should stay home and quarantine for five days. A person is considered up-to-date if they have received all primary series doses and boosters recommended for them. Regardless of whether they develop symptoms, people in this group should get tested at least five days after they last had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
The CDC says those who are exposed and up to date on their vaccines don’t need to stay home unless they develop symptoms. It’s recommended that they get tested at least five days after close contact with someone who has COVID-19, even if they don’t develop symptoms.
Employers are also required by OSHA to record certain work-related illness, which can include COVID-19 if all of the following conditions are met:
- The COVID-19 case is confirmed, rather than under investigation or presumptive positive.
- The case is work-related as defined by OSHA regulations.
- The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria outlined by OSHA, including death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, or medical treatment beyond first aid.