Are Employers Required to Document Cases of Employees with COVID-19?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to document “confirmed” cases of COVID-19 that are “work-related” and involve one or more of the following:

  • death,
  • days away from work,
  • restricted work or transfer to another job,
  • medical treatment beyond first aid,
  • loss of consciousness, or
  • a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional, even if it does not result in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

A “confirmed” case of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one where the infected employee has had at least one respiratory specimen that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  A case of COVID-19 is “work-related” if the employee is infected by the virus at work. 

Recognizing the difficulty an employer would have determining if an employee was infected with SARS-CoV-2 at work, OSHA has instructed employers to consider the infection work-related if they have reasonably available, objective evidence that the infection was work-related.  For example, if there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 among a group of employees who work closely together, and there is no other explanation for the outbreak, the employer should consider the infections work-related and record the cases.  An employer is only expected to rely on reasonably available evidence, meaning evidence that is learned through information given by employees or through the ordinary course of business, in making a work-related determination.

An employer should record and designate a case of work-related COVID-19 as a respiratory illness.  With this designation, the employee has the right to request that their name not be included on the OSHA Form 300.

Employers who do not follow OSHA recordkeeping requirements for confirmed, work-related cases of COVID-19 can be subject to citations and penalties under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Regan Dahle

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