If your job requires that you take a temperature check before you start your shift, you might be wondering if that activity counts as compensable time. Under FLSA law, if the activity is considered a “principal activity,” in that it is necessary to complete for the employee to perform their duties, then it is compensable. Expanding on this, employers must compensate employees for any preliminary and postliminary (pre-shift and post-shift) activities that are considered integral to the carrying out of their job’s principal activities.
But, it’s not so simple. As part of a push to return employees to work, some states require mandatory temperature checks to screen for fever, which is one of the symptoms of COVID-19. Other states and local authorities haven’t made temperature screens mandatory. Because there hasn’t been a definitive legal decision that affects all Americans across the board, the situation is more complicated than a simple yes or no.
So, should you be paid for the time spent taking your temperature? The answer is that it depends on a few factors, which we will be exploring in this post.
Should My Employer Take Temperatures Regularly to Check for COVID-19?
There is no national temperature check mandate in place. Temperature checks are considered part of a more comprehensive screening strategy to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Though a fever can certainly be a symptom of COVID-19, it doesn’t have to be. When an infected employee doesn’t have a fever, a temperature screening would be ineffective at stopping that employee from potentially spreading COVID-19 to their coworkers.
Based on this understanding, temperature checks alone are ineffective at stopping the spread. They should be used in conjunction with other detection and prevention methods, such as self-reporting symptoms, masking, and social distancing when possible.
That said, temperature checks are widely used by employers as the first line of defense in preventing COVID-19 from spreading throughout the workplace.
Can My Temperature Be Taken By My Employer?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC, a temperature check is technically considered a medical examination. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, an employer cannot subject an employee to a medical examination unless it is deemed consistent with business necessity.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic is considered a national emergency and preventative screenings are useful tools to keep businesses operating through the pandemic, regular temperature checks are considered consistent with pandemic-era business necessity. So, yes, your employer can make you submit to a temperature check.
Who Should Take Temperatures?
Some businesses have nursing staff to address minor injuries and oversee basic healthcare for employees. If your employer retains nursing staff, then they should administer temperature checks. However, medical training is not required to administer a temperature check.
Any professional on staff can don the appropriate PPE, use a non-touch infrared thermometer, and follow temperature check guidelines to administer a temperature check successfully.
Some businesses allow employees to self-administer temperature checks. In this case, employee temperatures are self-reported and rely on the employee’s honesty.
Are Temperature Checks a Good Idea?
As mentioned above, temperature checks alone are not effective at screening for COVID-19 infections. They are only worth administering if performed in conjunction with other measures – such as self-reporting symptoms, masking, contact tracing, and social distancing practices (when possible). Temperature checks are effective if used with other precautions.
Questions to Ask Your Employer
To make sure your employer is appropriately administering temperature checks, you have the right to ask them the following questions:
- Is your employer following temperature screening guidelines?
- How does your employer select an employee to administer the scans?
- Will the scan administrator be wearing the appropriate PPE?
- How will my medical data be collected and stored?
- How will my employer protect my privacy regarding medical data?
- Will I get paid for being sent home if I have a fever?
- Will the result be announced in front of my fellow employees if I have a fever?
Temperature Safety Measures
Temperature checks should be administered using an FDA-approved non-contact temperature assessment device. In non-medical settings, administrators should send an employee home if they have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher. During the test, the administrator should be wearing the proper PPE.
Proper Clothing for Administrators
Temperature test administrators should wear a mask and gloves. A face shield and medical gown are optional but are recommended if the administrator will have extended close contact with employees.
Can I Self-Screen for Covid-19?
Some businesses allow employees to self-report their temperature before showing up to work. However, employers might have their employees self-screen at the workplace under the guidance of a test administrator. This is optimal for maintaining social distance, as the administrator can observe an employee check their temperature.
It should be noted that if an employer allows their employee to self-check at home, this time is not compensable.
Do I Get Paid for Temperature Checks at Work?
To bring this discussion full circle, let’s explore some specific situations to see if you should be compensated for the time spent having your temperature checked.
Before & After Work Hours
As an employee protected under the FLSA, you must be compensated for any preliminary and postliminary (pre-shift and post-shift) activities that are considered integral to the carrying out of the principal activities of your job. If a temperature check is deemed necessary before starting your shift, then you must be compensated for the time spent waiting in line and undergoing the temperature check. However, a temperature check is not considered necessary after your shift as you will not be performing the principal activities of your job.
If a temperature check is required during your shift, then the time spent waiting and receiving the test is compensable because it takes place during your normal work hours. This usually applies to the healthcare industry only, where an employee might be screened more than once a shift.
Checking your own temperature at home—especially when off—is not compensable time as it is not considered a preliminary activity that must be performed before starting your shift.
If You’re Not Getting Paid and Think You Should, Contact We Stop Wage Theft
If you are not being paid for waiting in line and receiving temperature checks at work and you suspect this time is compensable—you may be right! Contact We Stop Wage Theft today at 215-867-2399, or use our online contact form and schedule a free consultation. We can help make sure you get what you are owed.