There is much concern and confusion surrounding COVID-19 risk on farms and ranches and what kind of steps employers can take to mitigate risk in their operation. AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe said that they have been fielding calls from farmers and manufacturers asking how to reduce the likelihood of exposure while remaining compliant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations and standards set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“A couple of questions that we’re getting that are the most common right now is, number one: is it legal, as an employer, to check employees’ temperatures at the start of every shift? We know one of the three symptoms is individuals running a fever of 101 [degrees] or greater” said Wolfe. “As of right now, the EEOC is saying it is reasonable to take employee temperatures at the start of the shift.”
The Center for Disease Control has indicated that a high fever does not necessarily determine infection but can be a good screening method for mitigating potential COVID-19 risk. Employers need to be aware that any precautionary measures will need to be consistent for the entire workforce. “This isn’t something that you get to selectively choose to do with one employee or another employee,” Wolfe noted.
CLEARING UP CONFUSION AMONG EMPLOYEES
Many shelter-in-place orders have been issued throughout California, but exemptions have been provided for those involved in the food supply chain. Wolfe said that “communication by agricultural employers with their workers is absolutely key,” as there is still significant confusion within the industry. Issues are being reported with employees’ understanding of the financial support and assistance that is being made available if they are unable to work due to COVID-19.
“It is our highest priority that if you are in the vulnerable population based on age, based on underlying health conditions, or your potential exposure to others, please stay home and let your employer help you navigate how to access the money that is available to you,” Wolfe explained.
A COVID-19 resource page is available on AgSafe’s website, compiling useful information from various reliable sources that will be continually updated to help keep the agricultural industry informed as the situation progresses.
Listen to Wolfe’s interview below.