Coronavirus: What Employers Should Know

Cornavirus Where in the United States is Coronavirus?

Since December of 2019, the coronavirus has spread to 27 countries. It can infect people before they begin to show symptoms. This increases the likelihood that it will be passed to others.

On January 21st the CDC confirmed its first case of the virus in the US in the state of Washington. This patient recently returned from Wuhan, China.  On January 26th, 3 more cases in the states of Arizona, and two in California.

As of February 3rd, 260 people in the US have been checked for the infection.  11 tested positive and 167 negative.  With another 82 patients results pending.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global public health emergency on January 30th.

Are employees with Coronavirus protected by the ADA?

Employees with the virus may not be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the coronavirus is a transitory condition.  If a worker has the coronavirus his or her employer should not identify this person.

An employer who restricts their workers who have recently traveled to China from returning to work may be vulnerable to ADA and Title VII claims, even if the angered worker feels the employer overreacted.  These are factors the employer would need to weigh against current health risks.

What steps should employees take to keep Coronavirus from spreading?

Employees can take some commonsense steps to prevent this virus from spreading as if it were the common cold or flu.  Washing your hands frequently and sneeze into your elbow.  Use hand sanitizers.  There is no need to panic at this point even with the descriptions as intense as they appear. Employees should be educated and cautious.

Should employees be traveling overseas?

Should employees be traveling overseas? Many airlines have canceled flights to China.  How employers respond to these requests to not travel would be based on the reasonableness of the employee’s objection.  Employers can take an approach of treating older employees and employees with immunodeficiency as a higher risk.  Anyone pregnant should be a higher risk as well.  This should also be dictated by what the CDC says.

If an employee doesn’t want to travel over fear of getting the virus on a plane.  This would not be reasonable. Workers returning from flights from Wuhan are under a mandatory 14 day quarantine.

Simply put, encourage your employees to be as sanitary as possible.  Wash your hands more than usual and don’t sneeze on other people.. Let’s all use common sense and not treat this like anything more than a cold going around.

Jason Caballero joined Florida Risk Partners in February 2019 as an Advisor. As an advisor, Jason works with a variety of companies in the Tampa Bay area and throughout the state of Florida.   You may contact Jason at jcaballero@floridariskpartners.com.

 

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