EBOLA: Employment Law Dilemma

By Linda H. Evans,
Senior Associate.


Back in 2009 in response to the H1N1 virus, the EEOC issued some guidance on pandemic preparedness in the workplace and the ADA. While the Ebola and H1N1 viruses are not identical, there are similarities in how employers should respond. First, the employer should rely on CDC or state health agencies for public health advice and not rely on fear or rumors. Employers should remember that they cannot refuse to hire an employee simply because that person is from West Africa or has visited that area. Harassment of an individual because of those factors is also prohibited. An Ebola outbreak does not change the basic discrimination laws regarding disability, race, or national origin.


The ADA prohibits employers from making medical inquiries or conducting medical exams unless they are job-related and for business necessity. And, as always, any medical information must be kept confidential and maintained in a separate file. An additional issue can come into play under the FMLA if an employee is required to quarantine themselves for the 21-day period, especially if the individual has no symptoms.


Given this complicated issue, consult with legal counsel before making any decisions in response to Ebola concerns in the workplace.