Should asymptomatic workers have to take time off while waiting for COVID-19 test results?

Posted at 6:24 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 18:24:47-04

LIVONIA, Mich. (WXYZ)) — COVID-19 testing, even amongst asymptomatic people is important to stop the spread of COVID-19. And while not talking specifically about any company Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist (D-Michigan) has talked about how the state has noticed some company policies discourage testing.

“You should not make any assumptions about someone who is getting tested, because we want people to get tested and understand their status for the sake of their individual health and the health of those around them who they come into contact with. There should not be any disincentives created for people getting tested and knowing their status,” said Gilchrist.

Now one worker is asking whether Ford’s policy is creating disincentives.

Demetrius Burton works at the Ford Livonia Transmission Plant. His grandparents often watch his children while he works. To protect them, even though asymptomatic, he says he decided to go to a public health free COVID-19 testing event. He asked the nurse about notifying work.

“I asked do you get a note or anything for work? She said no, You have no symptoms. You can go to work. If you test positive we will contact you and let you know,” he said.

So he went to work. Ford provided WXYZ with the survey it gives all of its workers. One of the questions it asks is “Are you waiting for a pending COVID-19 test result?”

Demetrius says he answered no because of a note at the bottom providing an exception if you have been evaluated by a healthcare provider. However, the document also says you must provide a medical note in that situation. He says he did not provide one. He worked for a couple of days, then got a phone call. He was positive for COVID-19.

“Had I not gone and got tested I would have been working at Ford being positive with COVID-19,” said Burton.

Now he is being disciplined, off work without pay for not answering the survey correctly. If he had answered it correctly he would have been sent home. Ford says to encourage all employees with concerns about their health to be safe it is providing sick pay to anyone waiting for a test result out of an abundance of caution.

Demetrius says he believes the policy discourages regular testing of asymptomatic people with no known exposure because workers fear missing work will impact their careers negatively.

“It is very important people get tested because people are dying out there,” he said.

Ford says it offers the paid sick time to those waiting for test results out of an abundance of caution and to ease concerns of other workers about why someone might get tested.

“We continue to work closely with the UAW and external experts in infectious disease and epidemiology on safety protocols to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. One of those protocols is a daily self-attestation in which our workforce answers a series of questions, including whether that person is awaiting a pending COVID-19 test result. Employees who do not answer the questions truthfully face discipline. Our employees are paid while they are out of work awaiting test results,” said Kelli Felker, Ford Manufacturing & Labor Communications Manager.

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