News of an outbreak of a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China raises issues for employers and employees about the appropriate workplace responses. Jackson Lewis has just published a special report on the labour and employment law implications facing employers worldwide, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Reported cases are expanding quickly to other countries, including the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of locations with confirmed cases throughout the world. Both the CDC and the State Department have issued travel advisories, and the CDC asks everyone who traveled to Wuhan in the last 14 days and experiences symptoms to seek medical care immediately. The CDC recently expanded this request to all travelers returning to the U.S. from anywhere in China. The CDC provides this advice for returning travelers:
- First, watch for any changes in your health for 14 days after leaving China. If you get a fever or develop a cough or difficulty breathing during this 14-day period, avoid contact with others. Call your doctor or healthcare provider to tell them about your symptoms and your recent travel. They will provide further instruction about steps to take before your medical visit to help to reduce the risk that you will spread your illness to other people in the office or waiting room, if that is what has made you sick. Don’t travel while you are sick.
Many employers are seeking guidance on how best to respond to workplace concerns, especially those with employees engaged in international travel, as well as employers in the healthcare, airline, and border protection industries.
Employment and Labour Law Considerations
Along with workplace safety and health issues, employers must consider other significant employment and labour law issues that will be raised by concerns about 2019-nCoV.
Most employment laws were not written with an outbreak of a deadly virus in mind. Perhaps because of this, in dealing with these issues, employers may find there is no effective “risk-free” approach. Rather, employers may need to evaluate all options and adopt a “risk-management” mindset, choosing the business and legal strategy with which it is most comfortable.
Employers Should Prepare to Respond
Experiences with other outbreak suggest that employers should adopt protocols to: 1) guide their responses to individuals who are seeking to return to work after traveling to and from affected regions; 2) manage the risks faced by employees traveling internationally; 3) respond to employees who express concerns related to their own business or personal travel; and 4) respond to employees who express concerns working with employees, customers, or others who have returned from overseas travel or are otherwise suspected of being infected with the 2019-nCoV virus.
Some employee concerns will be reasonably based and consistent with guidance from the World Health Organisation, CDC, and OSHA; other concerns may be driven by unfounded fear or speculation.
To read the complete report click here.
For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in the United States, please contact John Sander (Principal) of Jackson Lewis P.C. at John.Sander@jacksonlewis.com or visit www.jacksonlewis.com.