Employment Law Issues to Consider in Regard to Ebola

November 7, 2014 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​Disability and national origin discrimination, family and medical leave, collective bargaining agreements, and occupational health are legal issues for employers to consider when developing plans to address Ebola, according to three attorneys from Ballard Spahr presenting a November 4, 2014, webinar. With regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), "employers' options really hinge on the direct threat analysis," said Meredith C. Swartz, JD, associate. In the absence of symptoms or a specific exposure incident, requiring employees to stay home from work solely because they have traveled to an affected country may violate ADA. Paying employees during such an exclusion would not affect whether ADA has been violated. If an employee develops symptoms, the employer may be able to conduct a medical examination and determine whether the employee poses a direct threat, which could allow the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace until he or she is recovered. Shannon D. Farmer, JD, partner, noted that employees who are quarantined by the state may seek leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but in most situations, a quarantine order in and of itself would be unlikely to qualify the person for FMLA leave. Still, state laws and employer policies can be more generous, and employers may determine that the potential for legal action under other laws, negative publicity, and other fallout is not worth the risk of making employment decisions to the detriment of the employee.

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