It almost sounds crazy, given the staffing shortages everywhere, but can we fire someone for not letting us know they have COVID-19 symptoms and coming to work anyway?

The general answer is likely yes, but you must check with a labor and employment lawyer who is familiar with the state statutes and cases in the state where the facility is located.

Each state’s laws may impose different or additional requirements on employers.

Elderly individuals are more susceptible to the dangers of COVID-19, as well as other communicable diseases. Thus, organizations serving seniors are exposed to increased liability. The local lawyer should review your employment policies regarding infection control, policies which should be written clearly and enforced to protect your residents.

Due to the potential legal liability exposure to the facility serving seniors and their residents’ health and safety, it is permissible to require employees to report symptoms as well as to require testing. Having coronavirus symptoms or testing positive may prevent employees from working with the residents. 

Your infectious disease policies must be written and clear. Furthermore, you should uniformly enforce those policies to protect your residents.

Failure to enforce such policies to protect your residents may open up a facility serving seniors to an increased liability if residents contract COVID-19 from infected employees. This financial liability could be very large. 

Exposure will continue to increase as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and strains of the virus mutate. Unfortunately, despite the introduction of vaccines and more personal protective equipment and testing in many areas, it is no time to let up on vigilance and safety precautions. Your staff should be reminded of this regularly.