How you hire during COVID-19 may be as important as who you hire. You must comply with legal and safety regulations to avoid fines.
Hiring during a pandemic involves additional considerations, like how you can protect people from the virus without violating the rights of candidates.
Video and telephone interviews have become vital in the hiring process as companies and candidates work remotely. Keeping candidates, and perhaps hiring managers, out of the workplace could help you avoid any issues that could arise if you were to have a candidate come into the workplace for an interview and someone were to get the virus.
But you may have to obtain consent from a candidate if you were to record a remote interview, depending on your state’s laws. You should also consider the hiring process for candidates with disabilities, like how you would create accommodations for video interviews
If you do have in-person interviews, ADP recommends taking the following precautions, per its employer’s guide for hiring during COVID-19.
- Restrict applicants to a certain part of the workplace
- Sanitize spaces before and after interviews
- Require applicants and interviewers to wear face coverings and other protective equipment
- Ask candidates to reschedule if they're feeling sick
- Keep interviewers and candidates at least six feet apart
Testing applicants for COVID-19 or requiring applicant's to have their temperature taken before you extend an offer of employment is a violation according to the EEOC.
Both tests for the virus and temperature takings are considered to be medical exams, which federal law prohibits you from conducting on applicants. However, you may test an applicant or take their temperature after you give them a conditional offer of employment.
You also may not ask an applicant if they have recently traveled to any areas affected by a COVID-19 outbreak until you make a conditional offer of employment. If you do ask, put the question to all entering employees in that job type and phrase the question in a way that it is limited to travel that is within the past 14 days, or most recent timeline, set forth in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), attorneys for Verrill suggested in guidance on what you can do when hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceed with similar caution when asking an incoming employee whether a household member has tested positive for the virus. “The employee’s response to this inquiry could yield information that an employer typically should avoid trying to learn during the hiring process (including sexual orientation, marital status, and parental status). Accordingly, employers should not ask questions regarding an employee’s “spouse” or “child” and refer only to a “household member,” the Verrill attorneys wrote.
A conditional offer of employment is just that, “conditional.” The Society for Human Resource Management says that you can do the following when hiring in a COVID-19 world.
- Delay the start date of an incoming employee with COVID-19 or its symptoms.
- Withdraw a job offer to a candidate who has COVID-19 or its symptoms if you need them to start immediately
- Decline to hire applicants who refuse to work at your company's designated work location, whether that be onsite or remotely. You can require employees to work from home.
“But employers may be violating the ADA if they decline to hire a candidate who tests positive and is hospitalized ‘with significant symptoms and whose breathing is impaired for many months during a lengthy recovery. [That person] would likely be considered to have a disability under the ADA,’" Tucker Ellis' attorney Carl Muller told SHRM.
Hiring during COVID-19 requires you to consider some factors that you did not have to consider before. Know what you can and can’t do to keep people safe while protecting the rights of candidates.
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