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Assessing Levels of Risk When Contractors Become Sick

Guidance on how to handle diagnosed COVID-19 cases with FAQs about sick pay and remote work

This AGS guidance is in response to questions from customers concerning information that someone has tested positive for the coronavirus at a customer location and other related issues. First and foremost, our customers should follow the guidelines and instructions issued by their state and local jurisdictions and the CDC’s guidance to employers. In addition, customers should also rely on their own policies around workplace sickness.

In essence, it’s the end-customer who receives the services of the contingent workforce, and who directs the manner and location of the work. Therefore, the customer has an obligation to ensure the health and safety of all of the people working on its premises. This means that the teams leading the contract workers should be proceeding similarly as with the customers’ FTEs in matters of health and safety.

Scenario: A Contract Worker Tests Positive for COVID-19

If a contract worker tests positive for COVID-19, the client’s response will depend on the level of exposure. The levels of exposure are listed below.

Levels of Exposure

  • Low-risk exposure: Being in the same indoor environment as a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time but not meeting the definition of close contact; being seated within two rows on an aircraft of someone with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, but not within six feet and not having any exposures that meet a medium- or a high-risk definition.

  • Medium-risk exposure: Close contact with a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and not having any exposures that meet a high-risk definition; living in the same household as, an intimate partner of, or caring for a person in a non-healthcare setting (such as a home) a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 while consistently using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation; and travel from mainland China outside the Hubei Province, Iran, from a country with widespread sustained transmission (other than China or Iran), or from a country with sustained community transmission, and not having any exposures that meet a high-risk definition

  • High-risk exposure: Living in the same household as, being an intimate partner of, or providing care in a non-healthcare setting (such as a home) for a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 without using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation; travel from Hubei Province, China.

Potential Response to Levels of Exposure

Applying these levels of risk exposure, the CDC’s guidance for the workplace is:

Levels of Exposure

  • Asymptomatic, low-risk exposure: Promote self-observation for 14 days following the employee’s last potential exposure. The CDC provides guidance for self-observation. Employers may recommend the employee to check his or her temperature to ensure they are still asymptomatic before arriving at the workplace. 

  • Asymptomatic, medium-risk exposure: Consider on a case-by-case basis, after consultation with state or local public health authorities, whether the employee may be able to work onsite. Consider individual employees’ work responsibilities and locations to determine whether they could remain separate from others during the entire workday. If they are permitted to work onsite, employers should not permit them to enter crowded workplace locations, such as meeting spaces or cafeterias.

  • Asymptomatic, high-risk exposure: Quarantine. The CDC has issued no specific guidance as to asymptomatic, high-risk exposure with respect to the workplace; however, it generally advises asymptomatic individuals with high-risk exposure to remain quarantined (voluntarily or under public health orders on a case-by-case basis) in a location to be determined by public health authorities, and not to engage in public activities. Employers are advised to follow this general guidance by requiring employees in this category to remain quarantined.

Employers who apply these guidelines will have prima facie evidence that they have taken reasonable and not excessive steps to protect their employees. See, e.g., Abbott v. Bragdon, 912 F. Supp. 580 (D. Maine 1995); U.S. v. Morvant, 898 F. Supp. 1157, 1166-67 (E.D. La. 1995), supra.

The above guidance does not mean that greater or lesser steps are never appropriate; however, employers should be careful to base their decisions to take a different action on sound foundations from the CDC, and their state and local health organizations.


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This update contains general information only, and AGS is not rendering legal advice. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult qualified legal counsel. AGS shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever sustained by any person or company who relies on this update. Inclusion of any hyperlink or explanatory notes/summary do not imply any endorsement, investigation, verification, or monitoring by AGS of any information in any hyperlinked site.