With cases of Ebola being discovered in the United States, many employers want to know how they can protect their employees and what information they can provide to employees to help them understand how this disease is spread.
Currently, prevention and control measures have been developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for employees in healthcare, airlines, laboratories and those providing humanitarian aid. But information and preventive measures are still evolving. There is discussion of checking temperatures of travelers entering the U.S. through major airports and possibly quarantining those who have symptoms.
Absent specific direction from the CDC, OSHA or your local health department, employers must remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits requiring a medical exam unless the employee is having difficulty performing their job or they are a direct threat to the safety of themselves or others. Direct threat is defined as a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced below the direct threat level through reasonable accommodation. A medical examination of an employee may not disqualify the individual with a disability who is currently able to perform essential job functions because of speculation that the disability may cause a risk of future injury.”
Therefore, an employee returning from international travel with no symptoms at this point would not be considered a direct threat.
It is encouraged that you provide employees who will be traveling internationally with the Ebola guidance from the CDC and OSHA. If possible, consider eliminating or limiting work-related international travel. Contraction of Ebola through work-related travel would likely be covered by workers’ compensation.
For other employees who express concern about working with co-workers who have returned from international travel, advise them that you are following guidelines from the CDC and other public health agencies. It is also encouraged that you provide them with information about how Ebola is spread, symptoms, etc.
Here are some excellent websites where you can download information that can be shared with employees:
Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/HCCMO/training_programs.pdf.
Click here to learn more about EAF membership benefits http://www.eafinc.org/services/calculate_roi.html.