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Legal Concerns for Employers Related to Coronavirus

31 Jan Legal Concerns for Employers Related to Coronavirus

The outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S., a viral strain first identified in China, raises a number of issues for employers. The virus raises a number of workplace concerns in particular, especially when there are employees engaged in international travel. Employers should not only monitor these patterns, but the various travel advisories issued by the Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and provide employees with guidance if they have operations in affected locations. The virus has not only brought up significant health and workplace safety issues, but other employment and labor law issues that employers must take into account.

What is Known About the Virus

Although it is clear that our federal agencies simply do not know enough about the virus yet, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Coronavirus can be spread through respiratory secretions, especially when an infected individual sneezes or coughs. According to the CDC, some who are infected do not have symptoms, while others may become severely ill. While the CDC has reported that there is no official evidence that the virus can be transmitted before the onset of symptoms, authorities in China have reported the exact opposite; i.e. that it can be transmitted before someone shows symptoms.

The CDC has suggested that those who have had close contact with the infected or those who are being monitored for potentially being infected monitor their health for 14 days and watch for symptoms which can include coughing, difficulty breathing, chills, body aches, diarrhea, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, or runny nose.

What This Means for Employers and Employees

The CDC has also directed anyone who is being evaluated for the infection or who has been confirmed to have the virus to remain isolated and to not go to work or into any public areas. In addition, the CDC is not insisting that anyone who has had close contact with someone who is being evaluated for an infection or who has been confirmed as being infected quarantine themselves, but employers may want to err on the cautious side in work environments that can support remote work and voluntarily chose to have these individuals work from home. OSHA also directs employers to review their policies in order to ensure that they have appropriate workplace precautions in place, especially if they have employees who work in any of the following industries

  • Airlines
  • Border protection
  • Clinical laboratories
  • Healthcare
  • Waste management

Contact Our California and New York Attorneys

At Heerde Blum LLP, we assist employers and employees with all employment litigation issues. Consulting with counsel to figure out what the best risk management approach in light of existing employment laws is the best way to ensure that you are in compliance with the law and are protected in terms of employment litigation. Contact our office today at (310) 620-7172 or (212) 920-5858 to schedule a consultation and find out more about our services.