Since launching our website, we have received various questions pertaining to labor and employment issues. This post comes in response to the following question (from the orginial post Americans with Disabilities Act):
Q. How do we handle employees who have voluntary scheduled travel to West Africa? How do we handle their return to work after their trip?
A. Employers have significant flexibility on handling employees who have voluntary travel scheduled to West Africa.
For example, an employer could, lawfully, mandate such employees not return to work until the 21 day Ebola incubation period has expired. You could, but are not legally required to, pay those employees during the “mandatory” leave period. See FAQs on Discrimination and Harassment.
An employer also could refuse an employee’s request for leave to travel to West Africa though it should weigh the benefits of doing so versus the increased the risk of a discrimination lawsuit and its impact on employee morale. If you do not want to impose a mandatory leave during the incubation period, you could implement a monitoring protocol (i.e., twice daily temperature readings, etc.) for individuals who have returned from West Africa provided that it is job related and consistent with business necessity, which it likely would be in the healthcare setting. Of course, you should follow carefully the CDC’s protocols.
Clear communication and setting reasonable expectations is key in dealing with not only the employee who travels to West Africa but her co-workers as well.
Note that this discussion assumes that the employees are at-will and not represented by any union or employed by any governmental agency.
Because government employees have due process rights that are not applicable in the private sector and unionized employees typically have special rights under a collective bargaining agreement, special care should be taken when dealing with situations involving those employees.