Neither the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission nor the Centers for Disease Control has issued any specific guidance for employers to deal with Ebola issues. With multiple Ebola cases diagnosed in the United States and several states expanding quarantine programs, however, employers should prepare for the myriad issues that are likely to emerge if their work forces are affected by the Ebola virus. In doing so, employers must consider a variety of laws that may have implications for any planned response to the threat of the virus in the workplace.

For example, employers may be inclined to institute medical screenings and quarantines of employees returning from affected areas. Such screenings, however, may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA), which limits “disability related inquiries” and “medical examinations.”

Employees also may be subject to quarantine under state and federal quarantine programs, based on their own exposure or potential exposure to family members or friends. Quarantines of employees and family members may implicate the Family and Medical Leave Act, the ADA, and a patchwork of state leave and disability laws. In addition, a minority of states have laws that specifically address job protection rights for quarantined employees.

Employers must also avoid targeting employees who hail from, or are perceived to hail from, Ebola-stricken areas to prevent national origin discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and similar state and local laws.

Employers in the health care and airline industries face additional legal and practical issues, including obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other federal and state laws to maintain adequate safety protections for employees who may be exposed to Ebola at work. Collective bargaining agreements may provide employees with protections above and beyond those provided by law. In the health care industry, labor unions are increasingly active in their efforts to address concerns over hospitals’ preparedness to protect workers who are treating Ebola patients. Health care industry employers also may find some employees reluctant to provide patient care based on fear of exposure.

Employers must ensure that any efforts to prepare for or respond to the Ebola virus are consistent with applicable employment laws and regulations. Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group will be offering a webinar on these emerging issues on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET. The registration form is now available.

For more information, please contact Shannon D. Farmer at 215.864.8221 or, Meredith C. Swartz at 215.864.8132 or, or the member of the Group with whom you work.

Copyright © 2014 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)

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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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