On June 29, 2020, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released new guidance to assist employers in addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers are advised to review and implement the guidance into their current policies and procedures. Following DHEC guidance (along with OSHA and CDC guidance) is the best way employers can avoid liability concerns with respect to operating in a COVID-19 environment. The following is a summary of the key provisions.
A. Employee Tests Positive
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, an employer should immediately tell the employee to stay at home and contact their healthcare provider. The employee who tested positive should stay at home until:
- Ten days have passed since their symptoms began, AND
- They are free of fever for three days without using fever-reducing medicines, AND
- Their other symptoms have improved.
Upon notice of a positive case, HR should immediately gather the following information:
- Date of onset of symptoms (if applicable)
- Date and location where the test specimen (swab) was collected
- Date the test results were received
- Instructions provided by the healthcare provider when test results were communicated
- Whether the employee came in close contact with any other employees or visitors from 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms (or specimen collection if they never had symptoms) until they were sent home.
B. Employee Sick and Not Yet Tested
If an employee begins to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19, an employer should require the employee to remain at home. Similarly, the employer should encourage the employee to get tested for COVID-19.
If the employee does not get tested, he or she should remain out of work under the same criteria (i.e. ten days, free of fever, symptoms improved) as if he or she tested positive. If the employee does get tested and it comes back negative, he or she should still remain at home until symptoms have resolved.
C. Employee in Close Contact of a Positive Case
If an employee has been within six feet for more than fifteen minutes of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, an employer should require the employee to remain at home and self-quarantine. Specifically, if the employee lives with someone who tested positive, he or she must self-quarantine for a minimum of 17 days. If the employee was simply in close contact with someone who tested positive, then he or she must self-quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with the positive individual. An employee should not return to work before these quarantine periods end without contacting HR who, in turn, will consult with DHEC.
D. Employee in Close Contact of Someone Sick/Not Yet Tested
If an employee either lives with or has been in close contact with someone who shows symptoms of COVID-19, an employer may allow the employee to stay at work until the ill person(s) have gotten test results. If the ill person tests positive, the employee must self-quarantine as specified in Section C.
E. Employee’s Housemate in Close Contact with Someone Sick
When an employee lives with someone who has been in close contact with another person who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, an employer may allow the employee to remain at work so long as he or she doesn’t start to show symptoms. However, if the employee’s housemate begins to develop symptoms, the employer should require the employee to return home until his or her housemate gets tested. Then, if the housemate tests negative, the employee may return to work; and if the housemate tests positive, the employee should self-quarantine per Section C.
F. Employee eats at Restaurant where Staff tests Positive
An employer need not require an employee to stay at home if he or she eats at a restaurant where a staff member tested positive. However, if the employee starts to display symptoms of COVID-19, then the employer should require the employee to stay at home.
If you have questions about this topic or other employment law matters, please contact a member of the HSB Employment Law practice team.