Ebola in the Workplace Followup

The news about Ebola and its effect on the workplace continues. Employers are struggling to understand the potential workplace implications of the disease and how to deal with employees who may have been exposed or who are reluctant to travel to parts of the world that might expose them to Ebola.  I've posted on the topic here:

Some of my fellow law bloggers have been busy covering the situation:



EEOC is Challenging Some Corporate Wellness Programs as Violating the ADA

Marc Herman, writing for the Connecticut Employment Law Blog:

"94% of employers with over 200 workers according to the EEOC, offer their employees wellness programs....'The EEOC contends that the biometric testing and health risk assessment [in some wellness programs] constituted “disability-related inquiries and medical examinations” that were not job-related and consistent with business necessity as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). These alleged actions and severe consequences for not providing prohibited information as part of its “wellness program” violate Title I of the ADA, which prohibits disability discrimination in employment, including making disability-related inquiries.'"

Remember, voluntary medical examinations as a part of a wellness program are fine. But if employees are penalized for not participating in the medical examinations, they are likely to be found to be involuntary.

Read Herman's entire article here.


Video Interview: Discussing Ebola-Related Terminations with LXBN TV

Following up on my recent post on the subject, I had the opportunity to speak with Colin O'Keefe of LXBN on employees being terminated over Ebola. In the brief video interview, I share what I've been hearing on these firings and offer a bit of guidance to employers and employees on dealing with Ebola concerns.

Fired Over Fears of Ebola: What you need to know.

Well, it has happened already. My firm is getting calls from employees who have been terminated or fear termination because their employers are afraid they may have contracted Ebola during recent trips to the African continent.

I was interviewed this week on WOAI-TV regarding this issue. Here's the video:

I think the most important points to take away on this issue are these:

  • Employers should keep in the mind that the chances one of their employees actually has Ebola is incredibly low. Don't make decisions based on fear and ignorance.
  • Employers should keep in mind that if an employee actually does have Ebola, that employee is likely protected from discharge by the Americans with Disabilities act. Employers have a duty to accommodate conditions such as this. In the case of Ebola, a short leave of absence is the obvious accommodation of choice. Whatever an employer does, it should be done thoughtfully and with the assistance of competent employment law counsel.
  • Employees should understand that people's fears of Ebola right now are disproportionately high and in some cases completely irrational. If you suspect that your employer is afraid you may have contracted the disease because you recently traveled to Africa or were near someone who did, open a dialogue with your employer. Employers are forbidden under the ADA from asking you about your health without solid evidence that you have contracted the disease but employees have no such restriction. Let cool heads and dialogue be the rule, not the exception.

In the case of Ebola, let's not let fear of the disease become more of a problem than the disease itself.