The worldwide Ebola outbreak has hit close to home in Northeast Ohio. An infected nurse flew in and out of Cleveland and visited several spots in the Akron area. Different hot spots are developing across the country and with our mobile society more will arise every day. The possibility of exposure to the virus is very real and it is only a matter of time until someone in your office has had some tangential contact with the disease. Now is the time to put together a plan of action to fairly treat the employee while also protecting your work force.
The first question is whether to try and isolate the potential victim. The answer is yes. If you knowingly allow someone to expose your staff to deadly disease you are inviting a world class lawsuit. Don’t do it. Likewise, trying to isolate the employee within your facility is a bad idea. There are too many things that could go wrong. Keep any exposed personnel out of your building. It seems that the simple solution would be to tell the employee to stay home. Unfortunately, some folks will feel fine and not wish to use up sick leave and vacation pay. Forcing them to stay home against their will could also invite a legal claim. While the decision would probably hold up in court, you could spend tens of thousands of dollars defending the claim before you prevail.
One way to work around the issue is to set up a few laptops to allow the potential patient to work from home. Most offices now have the technology to do so. Likewise, purchase a few IPads for the same purpose. Have your office technology up to speed in advance. If you are concerned about productivity there are several programs available that monitor key strokes to give you an assessment of the amount of work done.
If you do not have the capability to create a work from home environment then consider authorizing paid leave. While no one wants to pay someone who is not working, the investment could save you the time and expense of dealing with a discrimination claim. These are scary times but a little forethought and preparation could pay benefits down the line.
For the CDC information on this topic click here.