Can I Ask My Employees To Self-Quarantine?
Question: A thought occurred to me last evening after I heard about the fish market in DC being closed down because of crowds…what if anything is anyone doing to discourage employees from partaking in group gatherings outside of work? Does anyone have a boiler plate email or letter that can be sent out to all employees stating that the company would require self-quarantining if it is found that they are involved in groups over 10 people outside of work whether it be intentional or unintentional. I am not even sure if this can be done legally??
Answer: We certainly live in interesting times, this question being a great example of challenges no one has ever anticipated.
In my opinion, an employer could require self-quarantining if it was learned that an employee was part of a group of 10 or more or if the employee were known to have been in proximity with an infected individual or an individual displaying symptoms since employers have a duty under OSHA to provide a safe workplace. Clearly, an employer can prohibit an employee coming to work who shows symptoms or has tested positive or is ill.
Then the question becomes, would an employer be required to pay the employee under the EPSLA or the FLSA for the period of self-quarantining, assuming the employee showed no signs of illness or that the employee was not advised by a health care provider to self-isolate. I think the answer is no for hourly employees but for salaried exempt employees, it would be safest to pay them for an entire week if they worked any portion of the week before being directed to self-isolate. The employee would probably be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if he could show that his exposure was inadvertent and as long as he was otherwise able to work.
But having said all this, an employer should proceed carefully. I would be comfortable with an employer informing his employees that at the company’s discretion, anyone who becomes involved in a group of 10 or more, whether intentionally or not, or who is exposed to an infected or symptomatic individual, may be instructed to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. I’d allow an employee to use company vacation or sick leave but would not pay under the EPSLA absent one of the EPSLA triggers.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with ACCA’s LegalTools Counsel, Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted In: Opinion
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