According to Texas Business Today, the recent scare of the Ebola virus has many employers expressing concern for the heath of their employees and the effect this has on the overall flow of business. Historically, this is not the first disease to cause public health concerns; in the recent past H1N1, H1N5, AIDS, HIV, and swine flu viruses have all been a focus of concern. As an employer, being aware of the relevant applicable laws should be a priority. Federal law requires an employer to guarantee safety in the workplace; an employer must be aware of reliable medical information and how to best approach a situation of workplace exposure in order to avoid discrimination and invasion of privacy.
Here are 9 steps to help employers manage a communicable disease situation appropriately:
1. Adopt a clear written policy about the confidentiality of medical information.
2. Adopt a clear written policy for monitoring and managing those who may have been exposed.
3. Adopt a flexible sick-leave policy.
4. Educate yourself and your employees on specific communicable disease at issue.
5. Identify the scope of risk before taking action.
6. Control office gossip concerning an employee’s medical condition to avoid harassment issues.
7. Call your city or county health department to obtain advice before moving forward.
8. Keep notes on steps taken to address the situation.
9. Comply with any investigation to avoid liability.
Additionally, all employers should carefully avoid acting out of fear when the issue of a communicable disease in the workplace arises. Following the above precautions should serve as a useful guide to mitigate or prevent employer liability.