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Should I Start Taking My Employees Temperatures?

Since the WHO and CDC have declared that we are in the midst of a COVID-19 Pandemic, the EEOC has allowed the taking of employee temperatures.

I recently was a panelist on a webinar hosted by the World Health Congress & The Validation Institute and I was able to discuss the taking of employee temperatures with Dr. Ian Lipkin, head of Epidemiology at Columbia University.

Dr. Lipkin stated that a person with COVID-19 might be asymptomatic so the taking of employee temps shouldn’t be the only thing you do or rely on. On the other hand, you may identify a person who has a fever who might not be aware of it. Overall, it is a worthwhile exercise.

It is so worthwhile that Burger King, McDonalds, and many other fast food restaurants are rapidly procuring thermometers to start this process.

A couple of things to consider:

  1. You should know why are you doing this?
    1. Is this to protect you from a potential future liability?
    2. Is this to stop a potentially sick employee from working today?
    3. Or Both?
  2. Where are you storing this data?
    1. Not planning on recording the temp, just checking as the employee enters the restaurant.
    2. In a Platform like OpsAnalitica.
    3. Keeping this written down on paper.
    4. How long are you planning on storing the data?
    5. This data must be kept confidential.
  3. You are allowed to ask questions about COVID-19 only, and I suggest that you do.
    1. You should definitely ask if the person has taken fever reducers in the last 24 hours.
    2. You should also ask specifically if an employee has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    3. You should ask the employee if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  4. Do you have a plan for what you are going to do if you identify a sick employee?
    1. You should document that you sent the employee home and what symptoms they were exhibiting.
    2. If a person is exhibiting symptoms today, they could have been contagious for up to a week. You should pull schedules for the last week.
    3. I would suggest that the person get a COVID-19 test and offer to pay for it if necessary.
  5. Where in your restaurant are you going to fill out this questionnaire and take their temperature?
    1. If the person has COVID-19 and they are on the line, what are the consequences of them being close to food?
    2. Doing this by the entrance door makes a lot of sense, it would be the easiest area to clean and sanitize?
  6. What kind of thermometer are you going to use?
    1. Make sure to disinfect it in between uses.
    2. Definitely use a forehead thermometer or ear. You don’t want to use an oral thermometer.
  7. Is the manager going to take the temperature or is the employee.
    1. Some thermometers are hard to take your own temperature.
    2. If a manager is going to be getting very close to an employee, they should wear a mask.
    3. Managers and employees should do their best to maintain social distancing protocols.
  8. What if an employee is coughing but doesn’t have a fever?
    1. Coughing and fever are the two main symptoms of COVID-19. I would recommend sending the employee home until their coughing stops.
  9. Do you have health insurance and Sick Leave?
    1. I believe you have to cover 14 days of sick pay for people who are diagnosed with COVID-19. You should confirm this in your state.
    2. Does your current sick leave policy create an incentive for employees to lie to you? If yes, you should correct that immediately.

We have created a health verification form to use for employees. It guides the manager through asking questions and taking temperatures. It is a part of our free COVID-19 resources.

If you are interested in learning more or taking advantage of these resources, please open a chat in the bottom right hand corner of the page.

To get some more information on the legal aspects of taking temperatures of employees you can check out these resources:

Written by

I've been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life. I have a BSBA from University of Denver Hotel Restaurant school and an MBA from the same. When I wasn't working in restaurants I was either doing stand-up comedy, for 10 years, or large enterprise software consulting. I'm currently the Managing Director of OpsAnalitica and our Inspector platform was originally conceived when I worked for one of the largest sandwich franchisors in the country. You can reach out to me through LinkedIn.