What to Do If an Employee Tests Positive

By: Howard M. Bookstaff, General Counsel

We are seeing more positive test results every day.  Many apartment communities have had residents test positive.  Chances are that you will also see employees test positive.  What should you do when an employee is not feeling well?  What actions should you take if the employee tests positive?  Who should you tell?

What should I do if an employee is not feeling well?

If any employee is not feeling well at work, they should go home and contact their healthcare provider. If an employee is feeling ill at home, they should not come to work and call their healthcare provider. If an employee has any symptoms associated with COVID-19, they should also contact the public health department regarding their symptoms.  If it is an emergency, call 911.

Employees who had contact with an employee who has COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 may be at risk and should be directed to contact the health department. Depending on the level of contact with the symptomatic employee, other employees may be directed by the health department to self-quarantine for the remainder of 14-day period from the date of their last exposure to the infected employee.

What do employers do when employees test positive for COVID-19?

Suggested Steps:

  1. Send the employee home. The infected employee may be eligible for the new Emergency Paid Sick Leave and should fill out the proper form to submit.  The documentation should be kept for payroll credit processing purposes.
  2. Thoroughly clean the areas that have been recently touched by the employee in accordance with CDC guidelines on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility (which can be found at gov/coronavirus).
  3. Contact the health department and follow instructions with respect to notifying other employees. Please note that the local health department has indicated that they will conduct the appropriate investigation and notify those persons that may have been at risk.
  4. Advise employees who may have been exposed to contact the health department if they develop symptoms or are concerned about their risk. Depending on the level of contact with the symptomatic employee, these employees may be sent home to self-quarantine for the remainder of the 14-day period from the date of their last exposure to the infected employee.
  5. Mitigate the issue for other employees as much as possible. This may involve cleaning in accordance with the CDC guidelines or requiring the use of Personal Protective Equipment to minimize the risk of exposure to others.

Do we inform residents that a staff member has tested positive?

Although the identity of the person should not be revealed, and independent factual circumstance will determine whether a duty is owed under the circumstances to warn residents of a person with a positive test, it may be beneficial to notify residents that there has been a positive test among the on-site team.  Residents may be more upset if they hear that an employee has tested positive from others.

You can take the opportunity in any notification letter to reiterate what steps are being or have been taken to minimize transmission of the disease.  You may have closed common areas and amenities, restricted access or closed management offices to resident traffic, reduced maintenance services to emergency situations only, and increased cleaning activities in common areas.  You may also want to remind residents what they can do to protect themselves including following CDC and health department guidelines regarding social distancing, handwashing and following personal hygiene tips.


Inevitably, you will run across a situation where an employee has tested positive.  Be prepared to act.  By following the direction of the health department officials and the CDC and acting in accordance with your prepared plan, you will hopefully minimize problems.

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